COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Across the country, women are represented more than ever before among the ranks of state law enforcement, but not in Ohio.
Research by Stateline, an initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts, shows the percentage of women within the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) has decreased over the last 20 years, from 9 percent in 2000 to 8 percent today.
Trooper Jessica McIntyre has been with OSHP for more than 20 years.
“You have to enjoy what you do,” McIntyre said. “If you don’t enjoy it, then you’re not going to get those rewards, and I do enjoy what I do.”
Law enforcement is a historically male-dominated sector. Nationally, the Stateline research reveals that, on average, roughly seven percent of sworn state law enforcement personnel are women. Vermont and North Carolina are the two states with the highest proportion of female state troopers, at 13 percent. Georgia’s rate sits at just 2 percent, according to the research.
OSHP did not employ a female trooper until its 100th academy class in 1977. Neither Trooper Dianne Harris’ name nor photo appear in the museum inside the OSHP Training Academy in Columbus. However, Harris does appear in materials on the OSHP website.
According to the 30×30 Initiative, a nonprofit that aims to bring more women behind the badge, female officers are viewed as more compassionate by members of the community and are named in fewer complaints than their male counterparts.
“It has to do with communication,” McIntyre said. “We’re more so apt to talk to people in situations, versus them taking it up a level to using resistance or having them resist you, or what have you.”
Just as in any other workforce, McIntyre said, diversity is a strength.
“You’re able to have the concept or the ideas from a male perspective, and also from a female perspective. And also, you’re bringing them together,” she said.
McIntyre, who frequents career fairs, K-12 schools, and colleges as a recruiting trooper, said she consistently gets enthusiastic feedback from women and girls about becoming law enforcement officers.
“When people see someone like them, they’re more apt to have more interest in doing the job,” McIntyre said.
Law enforcement agencies in Ohio are stepping up recruitment efforts geared toward women. Just this month, the state Office of Law Enforcement Recruitment hosted a webinar for women to learn about what a career in law enforcement could offer them, and OSHP participated in a multi-agency career fair in Columbus marketed for women.
Troopers said at the career fair that they were happy with the turnout.