Women rise through the police ranks

After hearing from women who broke through glass ceilings in policing, Burbank’s female police officers and city employees returned home from a conference last week inspired to embrace their roles in a male-dominated field.

“People think women have it so much harder in law enforcement because we’re constantly trying to fight to prove who we are,” said Burbank Police Officer Sarah Brady.

But arrest suspects never want to fight her like they do her male counterparts, Brady said, adding that she often lets suspects “talk themselves” into handcuffs.

“In some situations involving volatile suspects ... the female officer has had the ability to calm the situation down,” said Burbank Police Sgt. Darin Ryburn.

But that’s not to say women can’t handle a fight, he said.

Ryburn recalled an incident when a drunk man wanted to fight a female officer.

“She basically took him on, threw the cuffs on him and put him in jail,” Ryburn said. “Obviously, these women have the ability to be police officers because they’ve passed all the tests, and they’re proving themselves out in the field.”

The “unspoken challenge” to prove oneself to fellow officers still exists, though, Brady said. But she’s not discouraged.

“I know some things are going to be harder for me,” she said. “I want to put out to my partners, my fellow officers: I am ready, I am here, I’m 120% in the game.”

Women make up less than 10% of Burbank’s police force — 15 officers out of 159. Eight of those were hired within the last five years, Ryburn said.

That’s slightly below the 15% national average of similar-sized departments, according to a 2010 Bureau of Justice Statistics report.

“Women’s representation in the ranks of the Police Department is relatively new,” said Burbank Police Chief Scott LaChasse. “What we want to do is have the most effective, vibrant, progressive workforce that we possibly can.”

In the mid-’70s, LaChasse said, it was nearly impossible for a woman to move above sergeant. Women’s police uniforms consisted of high heels and mini-skirts, and ranks were even divided by gender — “policeman” and “policewoman.”

While Brady’s currently focusing on finishing her first year as an officer — she was sworn in 10 months ago — she does see herself pursuing promotions in the future.

“There’s nothing I can’t do as a female in law enforcement,” she said.


Follow Alene Tchekmedyian on Google+ and on Twitter @atchek.


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