Today, Congresswoman Deborah Ross (NC-02) and Congressman Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01) introduced the Supporting Women with Career Opportunities in Policing Services (COPS) Act to incentivize more women to join law enforcement by revising biased hiring practices and establishing standards for female officer retention and promotion. Currently, only 12% of the nation’s police officers are women, a number that has remained largely unchanged for more than 25 years. Women are often hindered by outdated hiring processes that focus on physical strength and force. Additionally, research shows that hiring more women could have a positive effect on police performance.

“Police officers put their lives on the line every day to keep our communities safe, and it’s critical that we invest in their success,” said Congresswoman Ross. “Our law enforcement agencies are stronger when their officers reflect the people and the communities they serve. We need to give our local police departments the resources they need to recruit and retain the best and brightest talent, including women. Wake County is leading the nation with three outstanding female police chiefs, and the Supporting Women COPS Act is an important step forward to building on this progress across all levels of law enforcement. I look forward to working with Congressman O’Halleran to advance this important legislation.”

“As a former law enforcement officer, I saw firsthand the barriers to success my women colleagues faced as they sought to protect and serve their communities,” said Congressman O’Halleran. “These brave, hardworking officers deserve fair hiring processes, pay, and treatment as they strive to keep families safe and better represent the Americans they serve. That’s why I’m proud to join Congresswoman Ross to introduce this commonsense legislation that supports women in law enforcement, incentivizes hiring, and updates out-of-date practices that create barriers for women officers.”

“As we continue to navigate the challenges of recruitment and retention in law enforcement, we must be deliberate in creating an inclusive environment for those interested in the field, as well as those currently serving,” said Raleigh Police Chief Estella Patterson. “This piece of legislation speaks to both scenarios and enhances the vital role women play at all levels in law enforcement. It will serve as a strong recruitment tool in educating and encouraging women who may feel they cannot perform or excel in this field. I look forward to the positive impacts the Supporting Women COPS Act will have within our organizations and the services we provide to the community.”

“The Supporting Women COPS Act will be pivotal for the law enforcement profession,” said Kym Craven, Executive Director of the National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives (NAWLEE). “This historic bill will help advance the role of women in law enforcement in a way that is unprecedented. Women are underrepresented in law enforcement and this needs to change. Research shows the importance and impact of women in law enforcement. They use less force and less excessive force; are named in fewer complaints and lawsuits; are perceived by communities as being more honest and compassionate; achieve better outcomes for crime victims, especially in sexual assault cases; and make fewer discretionary arrests, especially of non-white residents. NAWLEE is pleased to support the bill and welcomes the change that will result.”

The Supporting Women COPS Act:

  1. Establishes a task force on women in law enforcement.
  2. Requires this task force to release a report with recommendations on hiring standards for law enforcement officers that do not disadvantage applicants based on sex, for female officer retention, and for female advancement to leadership roles in law enforcement.
  3. Incentivizes states to adopt these recommendations by offering them an increase in their normal Byrne JAG totals by 5% per year.
  4. Authorizes $40 million per year to pay for these incentives and authorizes DOJ to provide technical assistance to states looking to adopt the task force’s recommendations. 

Bill text is available here.