LMPD :: Louisville Metro Police Department

Kentucky police departments trying to recruit more female officers


Efforts to increase the number of full-time female law enforcement officers in departments across Kentucky have been met with resistance from women who are hesitant to enter the profession.

The Owensboro Police Department is recruiting at colleges and job fairs. But Officer Marian Cosgrove told the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer women frequently dismiss police work.

It's an issue across Kentucky, where only 7 percent of all police officers are women.

"Being a female and trying to recruit (women), you'd think I'd have the upper hand," Cosgrove said. "But at job fairs, they just laugh at you if I ask them if they've ever thought of being a police officer."

The executive director of the Kentucky Law Enforcement Council, Larry Ball, said the primary issue appears the physical fitness test required of all law enforcement recruits. Ball said in the past, only 32 percent of women passed the council's physical fitness test to enter law enforcement.

The test includes push-ups, bench press, sit-ups and two runs.

To increase the number of women passing the physical entrance test, the law enforcement council created a point scale for each category. The council did away with the pass-fail standard, with a person failing in one category failing the entire test.

The point scale increased the number of women passing the test to 55 percent, Ball said.

"What we're trying to do is open the gate a little wider" for women who want to be in law enforcement, Ball said. But the council didn't change the physical fitness standards women must meet to graduate from the law enforcement academy in Frankfort, Ball said.

The physical part of the job is what most women cite when dismissing law enforcement work, Cosgrove said. Many women at job fairs believe police work primarily involves physically taking down suspects. "We rarely have to physically run after people," Cosgrove said. "We just need people that come from all different (walks) of life … that can relate to different people in the community, who can think fast on their feet and can multitask."

Ball said there is a belief among some women that they aren't physically capable of police work - a perception that is based on the false belief that all police work is physical.

"The reality is there is not a lot of physical contact that goes on," Ball said. "The biggest thing is dealing with the public. It's people skills, and women are excellent (in that area)."

All officer candidates - men and women - must pass the same physical fitness test.

"The theory behind that is it's the same job for men and women," Cosgrove said. "The hardest thing for females to pass is the push-ups."

All candidates must be able to perform 20 pushups.

"That might be hard if you've never done push-ups. But as long as you prepare early, it's not an unattainable standard," Cosgrove said.

Women who complete the academy will graduate having met "the same, exact standard," Ball said.

The skills to physically defend oneself comes from the training officers receive as new officers at the police training center and from the additional instruction OPD provides for its officers, Cosgrove said.

"That's what makes it work - the amount of training," Cosgrove said.