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Advancing women in policing 


The University Police Department (UPD) at SUNY Cortland has committed to increasing the percentage of women officers in its rank from 20% to 30% within the next eight years and to promoting them to higher levels in rank. 

The department recently signed the national 30x30 Women in Policing pledge, which is a series of actions police agencies can take to improve the representation and experiences of women in sworn positions in all ranks.

The 30×30 Women in Policing initiative is a coalition of police leaders, researchers and professional organizations that have joined together to advance the representation and experiences of women in all ranks of policing across the U.S., said SUNY Cortland UPD Chief Mark DePaull, who signed the pledge in August on behalf of the department. 

Women have been significantly under-represented in policing since the profession’s founding. Currently, women make up only 12 percent of sworn officers and only 3 percent of the law enforcement leaders in the U.S.

UPD staff include, from left, Investigator Amanda Wasson, Dispatcher Sara Catrow, Lieutenant Danielle Salisbury and Officer Melissa Keelhar.

 “The goal is to increase the percentage of women in law enforcement to 30% by 2030,” DePaull said.

Cortland is well on its way, currently employing a 20% female police force. 

Once the 30% threshold is reached, research by the group has shown that the women officers have the power to improve their organization’s culture.

“By signing onto the 30x30 Pledge, the University Police is committed to improving the representation of women in law enforcement,” DePaull said. “The goals of this initiative not only focus on recruitment but also ensure that policies and culture will intentionally support the success of women throughout their careers.” 

An example of that is the current SUNY University Police commissioner, SUNY Cortland graduate Mary Sullivan Ritayik ’97. Ritayik was the first woman to hold the title of statewide commissioner and the first to rise through the ranks of officer, investigator, chief and commissioner within the SUNY system.

Both she and the SUNY Police Chiefs Association support the 30x30 initiative, and each campus university police department in SUNY has made the commitment to join the pledge. 

Cortland has made progress in supporting women in law enforcement leadership roles. Recently, SUNY Cortland UPD promoted Danielle Salisbury to be its first female lieutenant.

Participants in the initiative must know the factors that may be driving disparities and work to develop and implement strategies and solutions to advance women. That may involve the establishment of community partnerships so that agencies become truly representative of the jurisdictions they serve. 

The 30x30 Women in Policing initiative advocates assert that the under-representation of women in policing undermines public safety and that, in general, women officers: 

  • use less force and less excessive force
  • are named in fewer complaints and lawsuits
  • are perceived by communities as being more honest and compassionate
  • see better outcomes for crime victims, especially in sexual assault cases
  • make fewer discretionary arrests

 To achieve success, the hiring and professional advancement practices of participating agencies also must acknowledge people’s multiple identities, which can magnify their exposure to discrimination. Among these identities are race and ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, religion and ability. Women of color, in particular, will often face compounding experiences of bias and discrimination based not only on their gender but also their race or ethnicity.

“While 30x30 is focused on advancing women in policing, these principles are applicable to all demographic diversity, not just gender,” DePaull said. 

“Not only do we want to get the word out on campus, but we also want to spread the word across Central New York and bring attention to the need to increase women in law enforcement,” said DePaull, who helps fulfills the university’s pledge by sharing the message far and wide. 

For more information about the pledge, contact the 30x30 Initiative