BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — The Indiana University Police Department signed a nationwide pledge to bring more women to its police force.
It's called the 30x30 initiative, and its goal is to have female officers make up 30% of participating departments by the year 2030.
IUPD joins Bloomington, Carmel, Noblesville and IMPD in signing the pledge.
Chief Jill Lees has worked for the IUPD Bloomington Division for almost four years. She retired from the Plainfield Police Department after 24 years to take the job in Bloomington.
"I think it is so important to reinforce a positive culture for women," Lees said, "because women make good police officers. Women can do the job."
Lees initially learned of the 30x30 pledge as a member of the National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives.
"Sometimes, women just have that connection with students to be able to have students come to them and be comfortable about what they might be experiencing or if they might be a victim of a crime," Lees said.
According to the 30x30 initiative, research suggests female officers are perceived by communities as being more compassionate and honest. They also use less force and are named in fewer complaints and lawsuits, according to the research.
Despite that, women only account for 12% of departments nationwide. Only 3% of law enforcement leadership positions are held by women, according to the pledge.
Lees said IUPD's statewide force is comprised of about 20% women.
"That's a good baseline and a good start," Lees said, "but obviously, we would like to have more women apply with us."
Lees said this program is not just about hiring women, but rather about hiring diverse, quality women to join the policing family.
"We are a resource for campus," Lees said, "and we want to reflect our campus community."
Officer Gabby Mitchum, who has been with the Bloomington department for about six months, completed the 48th Indiana University Police Academy in 2021 before making the trip to Bloomington.
"As a female officer, it takes a sense of confidence to be able to go out there and know that you can handle yourself and take calls," Mitchum said. "A lot of people seem to confide in female officers more than male officers."
For that reason, Mitchum said representation makes it easier for her to connect with the campus community.
"It goes back to one of the reasons I chose IU," Mitchum said. "[It] was for a family dynamic and being able to see that our leadership cares about its officers enough to want to make a pledge to bring more women into law enforcement."
Lees said one of the first steps to completing the 30x30 pledge will be hosting listening sessions with women in departments across the state.
According to Mitchum, it's important to know how to recruit and retain more female officers.
"Right now, it is about a culture of changing people's perspectives," Mitchum said. "That's what I'm here to do is just be a positive impact on people and show them that us women can do just the same as our men counterparts in this field."
Lees encourages anyone interested in learning more to visit the 30x30 website or to call IUPD.
"Take that leap of faith," Mitchum said. "Don't be hesitant because it's a very rewarding career."