ORLANDO, Fla. - In a room full of hopeful police recruits, you are sure to find plenty of grit, determination, and strength. However, possessing those qualities, you will most likely only find a handful of women.
"Recruiting as a whole, nationwide, has been difficult the last few years, especially with women," Orlando Police Lt. Danielle Gately said.
Lt. Gately is an almost 20-year veteran with the Orlando Police Department (OPD) and a mom of two. She has seen a lot over the years and gender equality has now become a priority as law enforcement agencies across the country look to diversify their force.
In Orlando, Gately explained the top cop is making way for the future of females: "When he took office last year in his change of command speech he announced that the Orlando Police Department was joining the 30 x 30 pledge."
According to the National Institute of Justice, nationally, women make up less than 13% of all officers and the number of women in leadership positions is even less at 3%.
The 30x30 initiative aims to increase the number of women in police recruiting classes to 30% by 2030.
"Our next incoming academy class and we actually have 20% of that class is women," Lt. Gately said. "So I think based on the way we’re going and the things we’re doing, I think that is very achievable for us."
FOX 35 News dug into the data for a better breakdown of where OPD stands in its efforts to recruit more women.
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We learned that as of September 2023, OPD has a total of 969 people in sworn positions. 817 of them are men and 152 are women.
We visited one of OPD’s recent recruit classes, where recruits are participating in a 20-week program and completing 770 hours of training.
Courtney Parenti is the class president. "When I first came here I was a little nervous, like what am I getting into? But going through it and becoming the class president, then I realized I can do it just as much as the men can," she said.
In an effort to diversify its department, OPD has stepped up its recruitment efforts in recent months – hosting events specifically for women. Research points to department diversity providing more perspectives and bridging the gap that once stood between police and the community they serve.
The need for women in this male-dominated field is vital.
"I think women as a whole, we bring a different skill set to the police department," Lt. Gately said.
"Women tend to be a little more compassionate, have more of a listening ear. Women have that internal intuition about themselves," Parenti added.
Parenti and many of her classmates feel there is no better time than now, to step up to the challenge and change the narrative.
"To any woman out there who is interested and willing, go ahead and take that step. There’s nothing holding you back except for yourself," Parenti said.
OPD is recruiting year-round. New hires can receive an $8,000 bonus.
If you are interested in learning more about their job opportunities and benefits, you can find more information here.