FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. — The future of policing is changing, and the future is female. Several police departments in the region are pledging to make it happen by signing the 30x30 pledge.
The 30x30 initiative aims to advance women in policing by setting a goal to have 30% of police recruits be women by 2030.
Currently, women only make up 12% of sworn officers nationwide, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. The DOJ found only 3% of local police chiefs in the country are female.
The Fairfax County Police Department is one of the agencies that has signed the pledge to increase its number of sworn female officers.
“We all just bring a different perspective; the way we think, the way we approach life in general and we’re looking for more diversity for our police department because we want to actually mirror what we’re seeing in the community," FCPD Major Brooke Wright said.
Wright recently became the Director of the Criminal Justice Academy. In her time there she's already changed a rule that required women to wear men's exercise shorts. The first step of many as the department prioritizes female recruits.
Ofc. Cindy Osegueda went through the same academy six years ago. In her more than half a decade as an officer, she said she has seen firsthand the benefit of being a woman with a badge. Despite being told along the way all the reasons she couldn't do it.
"Growing up, I didn’t really see that many Hispanic females or even females, in general, doing police work," Osegueda said. "I said I want to be one, be a part of that percentage, and that’s another push. I did get a lot of negatives as to why you’re going to do this job, [such as] you’re female, you’re short, and you can’t so why don’t you go be a nurse or a secretary somewhere else. It got to me."
Osegueda, whose El Salvadorian parents raised her in Arlington, said what others saw as obstacles only cleared her path to excel in her profession.
“No matter if they say female, short, Hispanic, culture, it doesn’t matter," Osegueda said. "When you have it in your heart you want to do this, and you want to help people that’s when you just make it happen.”
Aside from Osegueda's knowledge of Hispanic culture and bilingual skills, she also has the gift of patience that is deeply personal to her.
“I have a brother with autism and part of that is who I am. A lot of patience grows from there, there’s a lot of repetition, he has his breakdowns, there are ways to approach it and those skills are unique and personal, so to bring them on the job is very important to me," Osegueda said.
"90% of police work is just communicating with people," Wright said. "We’re resolving conflicts, we’re problem-solving, but we want people to be able to do that with composure and compassion and under a great deal of stress sometimes. We’re meeting people on their worst day and we want to be that calming force and bring resolution and justice, and women tend to be good at those skills.”
Research suggests female officers use less excessive force, are named in fewer complaints and lawsuits, are perceived as more honest, make fewer discretionary arrests, and see better outcomes for crime victims, especially in sexual assault cases, according to research formulated by the 30x30 Initiative.
Those types of cases are close to Osegueda's heart, as she too can relate to the victims she works to bring justice to.
"I've had those cases where the female has opened up because it's female to female and also, I had a sexual assault case that I always say is very sensitive to me because the sexual assault portion happened to me awhile back," Osegueda said.
She said she never wanted to talk about being assaulted, but realized in her profession it can help women who have been in her situation and allow her to connect with other victims.
"Having that patience of going through that psychological portion with the female and say, 'Hey, I went through that as well,'" Osegueda said.
She said that connection can help bring a case forward.
"I don’t go around saying that to people but there are those cases I have the opportunity to bring my own experience to those sexual assault situations.”
Osegueda's life experiences provide her with unique and critical skills to protect the community she has always called home.
She believes more female officers joining the force can propel the department forward to set the tone for women now, women to come, and the entire community they serve.
The Prince George's County Police Department is another one of several agencies in the region that have signed the 30x30 pledge.
Also included are the Herndon Police Department and the Takoma Park Police Department. Spokespersons for the Metropolitan Police Department and Montgomery County Police said they are currently evaluating or in talks of signing the pledge.