02/11/2008

Utah has only one female police chief

The Associated Press

GARLAND, Utah — Garland Police Chief Linda Bourne is one of a kind.

According to the Utah Chiefs of Police Association, she’s the only woman in the state running a police department. All the other chiefs are men.

Bourne has three officers — all men — to help her cover the community of 2,000 in northern Utah. The small staff means in addition to her police duties like patrolling and making arrests, she also gets to handle the administrative duties.

“I always wanted to be a secretary. I guess I still am on any given day,” Bourne said with a laugh.

Bourne isn’t alone as a woman in an industry that’s predominantly male. Nationally, women make up about 12 percent of law enforcement agencies. And according to a survey by the (Ogden) Standard-Examiner, the number in northern Utah is much lower. The newspaper found the average in Davis, Weber, Morgan and Box Elder counties is only about 5.4 percent.

Sgt. Betsy Brantner-Smith of the Naperville, Ill., Police Department, said it’s typical for smaller police agencies to have fewer women.

Brantner-Smith is a 28-year veteran officer. She travels the country teaching female officers “street survival” techniques and writes columns about women in police departments and other law enforcement issues.

“I think there should absolutely be more women cops,” she said. “Women have so much to offer. They bring some amazing inherent skills.”

Brantner-Smith said female officers may be better than males in certain situations. In other cases, men may be better.

“Our whole profession needs good men and women,” she said. “But an ideal police department reflects your population with women and minorities.”

During her tours, Brantner-Smith talks to female officers from all around the country and thinks things are generally getting much better for police women — especially from her earliest days as an officer.

“It was a bad atmosphere, and we were treated very badly,” she said. “My first sergeant said, ‘You know, I don’t believe in broads in the police force.’ “

She said those problems have mostly been addressed, especially in larger departments.

Bourne said she tries not to think of gender as an issue. She’s a police officer with the same sworn duties as the men in her department. Still, she would like to see more women in the field.

“When you talk about percentages, I don’t have an opinion on that,” she said. “I just think that, you know, women are needed.”

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