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Police force diversity

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In 2013, about 58,000 or 12 percent of the full-time sworn personnel in local police departments were female. That figure remained the same from 2007 to 2013, but was up about 8 percent since 1987, when the survey was first conducted.

Since the inception of the study, the employment of female officers has increased in all population categories, but larger jurisdictions have continued to employ females at a higher rate, a trend that is found among officers of ethnic or minority populations. In departments serving populations between 50,000 and 100,000, female officers represent about 9.7 percent of sworn officers. The figure drops to 8.8 percent in municipalities between 25,000 and 50,000; 7.8 percent in those between 10,000 and 25,000; 7.5 percent in populations below 10,000 but more than 2,500; and 6.1 percent in communities with less than 2,500 people.

Statewide, the number of female officers is just below 12 percent, with 2,264 of the state's 19,041 certified police officers being women, according to the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES), which is responsible for certifying all peace officers in the state. In Oakland County, about 9.9 percent of the county's 2,058 sworn officers are women.

Of the roughly 596 different law enforcement agencies in Michigan, about 26 have female police chiefs, including the Michigan State Police department, which is headed by Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue.

A program of the Feminist Majority Foundation, the National Center for Women and Policing, has promoted increasing the number of women at all ranks of law enforcement as a strategy to improving police response to violence against women, reducing police brutality and strengthening community policing reforms.

"Twenty years of exhaustive research demonstrates that women police officers utilize a style of policing that relies less on physical force and more on communication skills that defuse potentially violent situations," according to the center's website. "Women police officers are therefore much less likely to be involved in occurrences of police brutality, and also much more likely to effectively respond to police calls regarding violence against women."

Comment from the center wasn't available, as it is no longer in operation since the person who had been running it has since retired, according to the Feminist Majority Foundation.

Wayne State University's Smith said one of the reasons that there may be fewer women in law enforcement is that there are fewer informal support networks for women in policing, including a host of challenges for recruiting. However, he said there is still mixed research on what factor race and gender play in violent encounters.

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