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Boston Police Department commits to hiring 30% women officers by 2030

The BPD has 15% women across all police officers; women currently make up 41% of the command staff “and we want to do even more,” Mayor Wu said

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Stuart Cahill/Boston Herald

By Flint McColgan
Boston Herald

BOSTON — The Boston Police Department has joined more than 300 other departments across the country in signing a commitment for 30% of its officers to be women by 2030.

“With our current class recruit at around 24%, currently, we’ve made significant progress in increasing the number of women to serve in the City Boston. I’m proud about that,” Commissioner Michael Cox said at BPD headquarters Wednesday morning. “But we still have ways to go and this commitment should … make sure that we are obligated, or intentional, about making sure we bring women on our job.”

The pledge is called “30×30,” an initiative inspired by the July 2019 National Institute of Justice special report “Women in Policing: Breaking Barriers and Blazing a Path,” which found that “the percentage of women in law enforcement has remained relatively stagnant for the past few decades.”

Statistically, according to the report, women represent less than 13% of officers and merely 3% of police leadership. That’s compared with women being 52% of the total city population and 50.4% nationally, according to the 2020 U.S. Census.

Mayor Michelle Wu said this ratio is “not only an equity issue, it is a public safety issue as well.”

“When it comes to ensuring that our residents are and feel safe in our city, those who serve must reflect the people and the neighborhoods that we serve,” Wu said. “We live in a state and a city that is no stranger to women in leadership and we’re proud that the Boston Police Department is already beating national averages across the board.”

The BPD boasts 15% women across all police officers, Wu said, and women make up 41% of the command staff “and we want to do even more.”

“That’s why we’re here today as the oldest and best police force in the country,” she said.

The pledge signing took place in the BPD HQ’s media room in front of rows of female police officers, including Superintendent Nora Baston, who said that when Wu was first elected to city council — which was November 2013, according to Wu’s city biography — Baston was the only female command staff member on the force.

“You now see females in that role including leadership roles,” Baston said, adding that groups like Massachusetts Association of Women in Law Enforcement (MAWLE) have also highlighted the camaraderie of “the sisterhood” of female law enforcement. “And I think people look at that and say I want to be part of that because that looks special. We’re changing lives every day.”

Representation is essential, Wu said, and illustrated what can happen in a different field: city administration.

When she was elected to City Council, her presence doubled the number of women there from one to two, “and back at that time, we always were called ‘the women councilors’ … By the time the next election cycle rolled around and we added two more, women were such a critical mass of that body.”

The drive couldn’t come at a more opportune time for the department, which is struggling to hire enough people in general. The BPD has come under fire for overtime shifts, with the department’s largest union, the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association, claiming that some officers had worked 24-hour shifts over the holiday weekend. It’s a claim the department has disputed, but nonetheless exposes staffing struggles.

“We are trying to hire as many as we can,” Cox said following the press conference when questioned on how to obtain full staffing levels. “We actually had more spaces available than we had people there to hire from the last list.”

BPD Deputy Superintendent Nicole Grant said her first encounter with a woman police officer created the desire in her to take on the career.

“I’d never seen any female officers growing up and it wasn’t until I was 11 years old at the Commons waiting for the bus … and I’d seen this woman on a horse and that’s when I knew that this was the job for me,” she said. “If there’s ever a young girl who wants to have a job in law enforcement, I’ll take the extra time to talk about it.”

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