MPD takes 30×30 Pledge: The goal is a 30% female police force by 2030

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Mayor Joyce Craig, the first woman to hold that office in Manchester, speaks about the police department’s pledge to increase the ranks of female officers to 30 percent by 2030. Photo/Jeffrey Hastings

MANCHESTER, NH – By 2030, women will hopefully comprise 30 percent of officers on the Manchester Police Department.

Police Chief Allen D. Aldenberg, at a news conference Thursday outside headquarters on Valley Street, said the department is the first in the state – and one of the few large departments nationwide — to sign on to the 30×30 Pledge, an initiative affiliated with the Policing Project at NYU School of Law and the National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives.

In doing so, the department is pledging to have 30 percent of its officer positions to be filled by women by 2030.  If the department met that goal with a full complement of 267 officers, it would mean 80 women officers would be part of the force.  Aldenberg, however, would not commit to an exact number of women officers he expected to be on the department in nine years.  

Broken down, Manchester currently has 238 sworn officers on the department with 29 vacancies; 25 are full-time women officers, or 11 percent, with one reserve officer. There are 42 supervisory positions: chief, assistant chief, six captains, 9 lieutenants and 25 sergeants.  Women hold two supervisory positions, both sergeants, equal to 5 percent.

In the U.S., women make up 12 percent of sworn officers and 3 percent of police leadership.   

To recruit more women, Alderberg said the department is looking at low- and no-cost approaches and activities to attract and retain women officers.  He said if those need to be expanded, there is money in the budget to cover the expense.

To start, he said command staff and a working group of women officers will sit down and discuss what is needed to attract women to the state’s largest municipal police department.

“I believe that 99 percent of the best ideas come from the bottom up,” he said.  “I have lived it and experienced it.“ 

Pointing to nine women officers standing behind him, Aldenberg said maybe some of them will have ideas the department has yet to try.   

Maybe one day one of them will be the first woman to head the Manchester Police Department, he said.

It is important for the department to reflect the diversity of the community, according to Aldenberg and Mayor Joyce Craig, who is the first woman elected mayor of the state’s largest city.  The goal, he said, is to eliminate barriers and advance women in policing.

The department also has one American Indian/Alaskan; two Asian officers; three Black officers, eight Hispanic/Latino officers, and seven who identify as two or more races.

“We recruit to hire people of all race and ethnicity,” said Heather Hamel, public information officer. “All people of every race and ethnicity have the same opportunity to apply and go through the process. Our recruitment spreads to our campuses, military branches and of course on social media. All these platforms reach every race and ethnicity.”

Aldenberg said the importance of women as police officers is borne out by research that suggests women officers use less force and less excessive force; are named in fewer complaints and lawsuits; are perceived by communities as being more honest and compassionate, and see better outcomes for crime victims, especially in sexual assault cases.

Officer Victoria Catano was one of the 10 officers attending the news conference.  She joined the force at the age of 34, which she said gave her more life experience than the usual recruit.  After high school, she enlisted in the military and continued with the New Hampshire Air National Guard retiring after 31 years of service.

She would encourage women to become police officers which she said is “a good job.”  She said her cousin, Olivia Lacroix, who is in her 20s, followed in her footsteps, joining Manchester police two years ago.

Catano is in her 19th year with the department. 

“I love my job,” Catano said.  Early in her career, she worked a few undercover details (prostitution stings) and she worked for a time in the Juvenile Division.

But patrol has her heart because she enjoys dealing with the public.

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Manchester Police Chief Allen Aldeberg says he will rely on the guidance of the city’s existing 25 female officers, 10 of which were assembled behind him during Thursday’s press conference. Photo/Jeffrey Hastings

One area where a woman may have an edge over a male officer is in talking with another woman. As an example, she said on Wednesday officers encountered a woman who was clearly in need of medical attention.  “This is not going to go well,” one of the officers said.

Catano said she stepped in to talk to the woman “as a friend.”  Soon, the woman was on her way to the help she needed.

It helps that she’s a people person.  “I like people, most people,” she laughs.  

Policing is becoming harder because of the people, the opiate epidemic coupled with COVID-19 pandemic. There are days when she thinks about retirement.  But, once again, there’s that laugh.

Aldenberg said it is going to take some time to recruit more women as well as minorities but the department is on its way. The latest recruit class, which starts Monday, includes a woman and a Black officer.