Every now and then a police headline gets positive attention, like when the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) selected Chief Mary Ann Viverette as their first female President, when Chief Heather Fong became the first Asian American woman to lead the police force in a major metropolitan city, when Zena Stevens became the first Black female Sheriff in Texas history, when Jennifer Grasso became the first female SWAT officer in the LAPD, or when Natalie Kindrick became the first Native American female inducted into the US Army Military Police Hall of Fame. Shockingly, these landmark occasions all occurred within the past twenty years, and there are still far too many police agencies that lack women, especially women of color, in leadership.
But the incremental progress is slow. Let there be no doubt there is still gender parity in policing–and it’s not a small margin. According to 2021 statistics, only 7% of state troopers are female, a number that has only risen 1% in 20 years. And in nationwide law enforcement roles, that number barely climbs to 13% female representation but drops dramatically to 3% in leadership positions.
Considering abundant research shows women have better outcomes in de-escalation, domestic violence calls, and lower excessive force complaints–recruiting and retaining women is an area where the industry should place more emphasis. One problem, as noted by the National Center for Women and Policing, is the need for training to eliminate gender bias.
MILO noticed. And we’ve been trying to help.
“A couple of years ago I was on set with a scenario film crew. The actors were communicating to the camera as if they were speaking to an officer, and I noticed their language defaulted to things like “yes sir” and “c’mon man,” said Robert McCue, General Manager of MILO. “We stopped filming to educate the actors of their biases, and then looked back at the rest of our content to see where that kind of exclusive language may have crept in.”
The need to be more proactive in mitigating gender bias in training scenarios is a big step in the right direction for female officers to feel like they are in a place they naturally belong. The MILO room is a place where women absolutely do belong, and we’re working hard to make sure everyone gets that sense when they step in. It’s also a safe space to work through questionable situations, to see where unconscious biases may be creating less inclusive behaviors.
Biases can appear within the department, and training with MILO can help.
“Within CBTSim™ we take a deep dive into the science of implicit bias, and the neurocognitive processes that drive it,” explains Dr. Lois James, Assistant Dean of Research at Washington State University and co-developer of MILO’s counter bias training curriculum–CBTSim. “Although designed to address biases that might arise during police encounters with community members, biases among fellow officers can also come to light. While working side-by-side with peers to promote fairness in decision-making within the simulations, officers come to recognize that they are considerably more alike than different in how they solve problems. This training can greatly enhance a sense of belonging and inclusion within a department.”
With respect for the progress that has been made, and is still needed…MILO continues the fight.