2 Baltimore City Council members urge police to promote more women

December 04, 2008|By Annie Linskey | Annie Linskey,annie.linskey@baltsun.com

Baltimore's Police Department needs to elevate more women to high-level positions, according to two City Council members who have fielded complaints from female officers who say they have been slighted.

"We want to make sure the female officers - some of them work very hard - are afforded the same opportunities as the male officers," City Councilman Bernard "Jack" Young said yesterday during a City Hall hearing on women in law enforcement and recruitment. "I've seen some of those female officers out there. They are just as tough as males."

Of the roughly 40 members of the department command staff, four are female. They include Deputy Commissioner Deborah A. Owens, the only woman to achieve that rank. The command staff also includes a female major in charge of personnel and two deputy majors in the Southwest police district and at Central Booking.

The department has about 100 police lieutenants, and 13 of them are female, according to police statistics. There are 39 female sergeants out of about 350.

"I think that the numbers say there is a problem," said Councilwoman Belinda Conway, who called for the hearing.

Police officials stressed that at 16.5 percent, Baltimore has a higher proportion of women on the force than the national average of 13 percent.

And Owens, the deputy commissioner, said the department provides mentoring opportunities for women, including study groups for the promotional exams.

To advance above the rank of officer and become a sergeant or lieutenant, officers must score well on written and verbal tests. The last time the exams were given, Owens said, 98 of the 431 women officers took the test for sergeant. Eighteen of 44 female sergeants took the test for lieutenant.

"They have the same opportunities that males have" Owens said. "I don't know why they don't take those tests. ... I don't think it is for lack of us trying to mentor people and move people in that direction. We will take every opportunity to move people up."

Owens said that the department plans to include more photographs of women in recruitment materials, adding that she has set a goal of having one-third of all pictures include female officers.

Owens also gave an upbeat assessment of police recruiting efforts, which have been problematic in the past. She said there is a waiting list for entrance to the police academy and the pre-academy cadet program, both of which have been filled without a costly advertising effort. "For the first time," she said, "we are fully staffed."

Many of the new recruits live in the city, she said, stressing that the department is no longer seeking recruits from Puerto Rico as it did in 2006.

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