This year, six out of 28 cadets, or 21% of the total graduating cohort at the Utah Valley University Police Academy were women, a significant statistic because it is twice the number of any year since the academy’s inception in 1996.
The UVU statistics are encouraging given the national average for sworn women police officers is 13%, which only includes a 3% increase since the 1970’s. Law enforcement leaders across the country are recognizing the benefits of recruiting, training, and promoting more female officers.
According to John McCombs, director of UVU’s Police Academy, female officers many times have a more profound impact as communicators, addressing violence against women and sex crimes, being empathetic, and de-escalating intense situations.
“One of the big takeaways in police de-escalation training is finding empathy with the person, finding something to relate with, to get down on the person’s level and communicate,” said McCombs. “That is what starts the whole de-escalation process.”
Mellanie Seamons, a UVU Police Academy graduate and now a Provo police officer, echoes this sentiment, “Women have more nurturing sides, and I think women are more likely to talk with people.”
A University of Zurich study in 2014 states that women who are victims of sexual assault or violence feel more comfortable reporting their crime to female police officers.
“I do think it is beneficial for departments to have women officers, especially when it comes to victims of sexual assault. They don’t want to talk to men, they want to talk to women,” said Seamons. “A lot of people will get the information they need and pass it on to where it needs to go, but I try to make sure the victims know, you aren’t alone in this, and none of this is your fault, you did not do anything to deserve this.”
McCombs and Seamons both said that in their work children are more drawn to women in law-enforcement than men. Seamons said she investigated sex crimes for many years in conjunction with the Utah Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS), and they would always give the young people a choice between talking to a DCFS worker or a police officer.
“In my experience, over 90% of the time kids would always pick the female DCFS worker, or female police officer. It’s not just women. It translates to children as well,” she said.
In addition, other research shows that female officers improve police-community relations, are less likely to use excess force, are named in fewer complaints and lawsuits, and are perceived as being more honest and compassionate.
The UVU Police Academy is a satellite of the Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST). UVU’s mission is to provide professional law enforcement training using state-of-the-art learning models, advanced technology, and public safety best practices to meet the needs of Utah’s law enforcement community and the citizens of Utah.
The UVU Academy employs local police officers, attorneys, and other specialists who are experts in areas like criminal law, defensive tactics, firearms, investigation, terrorism, and scenario-based training. Many hold rankings from officer up to chief of police, who work diligently with each cadet to ensure their studies and activities will qualify them to work as a police officer, investigator, and parole/probation officer in any police department in the state.