Madison seen as a leader in recruiting women to police force - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Madison seen as a leader in recruiting women to police force

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MADISON (WKOW) -- A new survey finds law enforcement agencies across the country haven't seen much of a change in gender gaps in twenty years. 

Politico found women held 14 percent of federal policing jobs in 1996 and only 15 percent now, but the rate is double that here in Madison, with 31 percent of women on the force, including many in leadership roles. That's one of the highest rates in the nation. 

Chief Mike Koval says it's been a long-standing tradition to bring in diverse candidates, in age, gender, academic and life experiences.

"It's constantly regenerating new thought processes and challenging us to be more reflective of what's going on in the real world," Koval told 27 News. 

Police say it also makes officers more relatable and helps them build trust in the community.

"I think we do make a connection with people and we do offer maybe a safe place for them that they may not otherwise feel they're in if it's a male officer," said Lt. Kelly Donahue.

Lt. Donahue says deciding to become an officer 20 years ago was a big decision, but her experience has paved the way to encourage young women to take that step now, too.

"The thought of telling my family or my friends that I was interested in law enforcement was a bit intimidating," Donahue told 27 News. "If I can take some of that away by making it okay, or something we expect of women now, then my job is done."

Madison's strong women leaders became one of the big reasons Officer Katie Bland decided to change her career to put on the uniform. She says her female mentor helped her through the academy and her concerns over whether she could do the physical aspects of the job. Now, she's confident, two years in to her new career. 

"I don't feel like being a female brings me any hardships as a police officer," Bland said. "I think the agency does a really good job supporting us and connecting us with other women who have been here a while and can provide mentorship."

Madison leads the state, too, in the rate of women officers, according to Koval. He hopes the department can provide an example of how to recruit a more diverse force.

"I think that they have to take that leap of faith to understand that if they just stay the same they will fail to be relevant," Koval said.

Women hold a number of leadership positions in MPD, including an assistant chief, two captains, eight lieutenants and four sergeants, as of 2016.

MADISON (WKOW) -- Federal law enforcement agencies remain a male-dominated profession, with women making up only 15 percent of the force, according to new reporting from POLITICO magazine.

But federal agencies can learn from the innovations of local law enforcement agencies, and POLITICO singled out the Madison Police Department. 

Women here have made up about 30 percent of the ranks for at least 17 years — one of the highest rates in the country.

“I honestly don’t think policing will have any chance of reclaiming lost ground or winning new hearts unless we are making an all-out blitzkrieg to incorporate diversity within our ranks,” Police Chief Michael Koval said in the POLITICO article. “Unless we can truly, authentically create a workforce that is reflective of our community, I think we will continue to slip and slide and lose whatever ground we may currently enjoy.”

Over the years, Koval told the magazine he has found ways to target women and all kinds of atypical candidates.

“We’re not looking for recovering Navy SEALs or U.S. Rangers,” he said. “We’re looking for critical thinkers, people who are empathetic, good communicators, great at crisis intervention.”

Tonight on 27 News at 10, find out why Madison has become a good place for women to work.

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