Des Moines PD signed national initiative to increase female officers weeks before sexual harassment lawsuit

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Earlier this month the Des Moines Police Department joined four other law enforcement agencies in a committed effort to make policing more inclusive for women. The national organization says that while it is a good step forward, change doesn’t happen overnight.

For Maureen McGough, the chief of staff for the Policing Project, the sexual harassment lawsuit facing the city of Des Moines and its police department is far too common across the country. “It’s not surprising in the slightest. There’s research out there that shows 93% of women in policing experience harassment at some point in their career,” said McGough.

It’s part of the reason why McGough and a retired female police officer named Ivonne Roman helped found the 30 x 30 initiative to help departments in America reach 30% sworn female officers by 2030. McGough said, “It became really clear we not only need to reimagine what police do but we need to reimagine who police are.”

The Iowa Department of Public Safety, along with police departments in Des Moines, Marshalltown, Urbandale, and Waukee have all signed the pledge to increase their female officer numbers. “Research shows women use less force and excessive force with interactions with the public. They report better relationships with diverse communities and they have better outcomes for victims, particularly victims of sexual assault,” McGough said.

The Iowa Department of Public Safety says women currently make up 6.4% of the department’s sworn workforce. That number is well below the national percentage of female sworn officers at twelve percent. Out of the 365 sworn officers in the Des Moines Police Department, 46 are women making up thirteen percent. McGough said, “They’ll be reporting out to us every six months about their progress and we have monthly check-ins as well.”

It is a pledge that aims to hold departments accountable in creating true change. McGough said, “It’s not really just about advancing women, it’s about changing the profession to be more accurate and to celebrate what it takes to be a good officer.”

Since the initiative began in June, McGough says over 110 agencies have signed on to participate.

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