women in law enforcement

NAWLEE: Paving the Way for Women in Law Enforcement

NAWLEE Executive Director Kym Craven.

In honor of Women’s History Month, Utility. Inc. interviewed one of our partners, The National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives’s (NAWLEE) Executive Director, Kym Craven. She is a Law Enforcement Veteran of over 40 years and a champion for women’s empowerment within the community. In this week’s blog, we cover NAWLEE, who they are, their mission, initiatives, their goals and how they are blazing a trail in the Law Enforcement Community.

Give a brief background on NAWLEE, its mission and values.

NAWLEE members together at their annual conference. Photo credit from NAWLEE

The History of NAWLEE

Twenty-seven years ago, there were six women police executives were at the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) Conference. As they gathered, they observed that they were very much in the minority and that there wasn’t anything for them in terms of women’s empowerment. This group had the foresight to create the National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives (NAWLEE) as an organization to help lead, inspire, and mentor women in the field, and that is the cornerstone of what we do. Everything that NAWLEE does today links back to that mission.

NAWLEE Values and Mission

NAWLEE is involved in a multitude of programs that support policing and some that are specific programs for women. NAWLEE supports women in their quest for career development and moving forward within the profession. In the past several years, emphasis has been placed on getting the broader community to so that NAWLEE and its members as police executives are progressive and professional, who just happen to be women. It was that notion that they had at IACP that year. The group moved forward to launch the association and then the next year they started the conferences and started an impact with women in the field.

NAWLEE not only focuses on women in law enforcement but provides assistance to all in the law enforcement community. Tell us about the training, sponsorships and initiatives your organization offers its members.

FEDagent Editor Natalia Castro discusses NAWLEE during the Women in Federal Law Enforcement 2022 Annual Leadership Training. Video Credit from FEDagent

NAWLEE’s Initiatives and Training

One of the things that’s important is that the activities of all women are captured. Mentoring is a cornerstone program for NAWLEE, but don’t want to just stop with that effort. NAWLEE wants to be looking at good policing strategies and how to use available programs to assist women leaders. 

NAWLEE is very fortunate to be part of the Collaborative Reform Technical Assistance Center (CRI-TAC). CRI-TAC is funded by the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), NAWLEE to be part of a peer association group with the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), National Tactical Officers Association (NTOA), FBI National Academy Associates (FBINA), International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Executives (IACLEA), the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Officers (NOBLE), the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training (IADLEST) and the National Sheriff’s Association (NSA) under the umbrella of IACP.

Each week the CRI-TAC team reviews requests from the field on a variety of policing issues that an agency is interested in pursuing. It could be training for first-line supervisors, assistance with recruitment, hiring and retention, de-escalation and use of force, wellness, mentoring, or policy development. CRI-TAC is a program where folks can request these services free of charge. It’s a for-the-field-by-the-field process. NAWLEE is also involved with Elevate Blue, a BJA-funded effort facilitated by IACP. Elevate Blue is developing six training programs that will be offered free of charge to agencies from around the county.

NAWLEE’s participation doesn’t just happen as part of the administrative process, but operationally as well. Members of NAWLEE provide subject matter expertise on many of the requests through CRI-TAC and have supported the development of Elevate Blue training.

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NAWLEE’s Partnerships

NAWLEE is finalizing a partnership on safety and wellness. Women have higher rates of depression, which is a risk factor for suicide. They often attempt to die by suicide more than men. To date, there hasn’t been a wellness program or training designed specifically for women. Given officer safety and wellness is important NAWLEE sought to partner on this topic and will be working with IIR over the next two years through a BJA grant. 

So there are different areas that are outside of what NAWLEE is part of a working group facilitated by the Anti-defamation League. This working group meets to combat hate and violent extremism.  Bring included in this partnership allows NAWLEE to gain the latest information that can help keep communities informed and safe.

NAWLEE is also part of the Lyft National Safety Advisory Council. Through this partnership NAWLEE is able to assist with programs for rideshare safety. Lyft is an important community partner to law enforcement assisting in times of disaster and for special programs. Research has shown that ride-sharing helps decrease the incidence of impaired driving NAWLEE also helps  Door Dash with safety messaging. These are both examples of how NALWEE is to the overall safety of communities which is important to us as policing professionals.

Women are underrepresented in Law Enforcement, accounting for only 14% of the profession. Why is it important to have a diverse force?

Importance of having a Diverse Force

Women are more than 50% of the population, so makes sense that women are represented in law enforcement agencies. While we advocate for women, it is the desire of NAWLEE for diversity in general. Communities of color and members from LGBTQ+ communities are all needed so there is the diversity of thought, and a mix of experiences ensuring that agencies are benefitting from different approaches, strategies, and mindsets. When you look at business and industry, the more diverse they are, the more profitable they are. In law enforcement, if we can align our thinking that diversity can increase safety in communities and improve the culture within organizations that can influence good morale of officers, and could start to see a very positive impact.

Research has also shown that there are important factors related to women in policing. Women officers tend to use less force and when they do use force it’s to a lesser degree. They have been found to have better outcomes with victims of crime and communities perceive them as more honest and compassionate.

Whether that’s different from men or not in reality I can’t be certain, but it’s the perception of the community, and that is important for policing.  When women officers make a traffic stop that leads to a search they are more likely to find guns and illegal substances. While research is showing women tend to have certain strengths, it doesn’t mean that we don’t need men in the field it just means we all bring different perspectives and traits which is important for an organization.

This year’s theme for the NAWLEE conference is “Empowered to be the difference”. How can agencies inspire women to join Law Enforcement and assume leadership roles?

NAWLEE members are seated together at one of their annual conferences. Photo credit from NAWLEE

Promoting women as Law Enforcement Leaders

First and foremost is promoting women that are in law enforcement agencies.  Agencies really need to make sure that women are in their social media campaigns, that they’re highlighting them on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and whatever another platform they are using, and that they are showing the differences that women can make. ”Empowered to be the Difference” as a theme goes with what is happening in the field. Everyone is searching for how to make this profession the best that it can be and ensure it is the noblest profession  NAWLEE hopes the momentum of the conference can empower women to keep moving towards positive outcomes.

There have obviously been some sentinel events that have impacted the trust that communities have in law enforcement. Unfortunately, the actions of a few have been atrocious, but it’s not the masses. With 18,000 police organizations, it’s not representative of the good work that officers perform on a daily basis. Agencies need to highlight that. Women need to know that they have the knowledge, skills, ability and compassion to be in this profession, and to make positive changes. The conference will hopefully uplift the women that are coming to keep them focused on being the change maker. Collectively, we have to stop the narrative that, ‘people don’t want to become police officers’. People still do, we just need to go out and find them.

The Law Enforcement Community has become much more diverse and inclusive in recent years. Based on your interactions with members, what disparities still need to be addressed?

Gender Disparities in Law Enforcement

While some gains have been made overall women are still only holding 3% of command positions within organizations. While it is significantly higher in the campus law enforcement community and higher in organizations that are over 250,000 in population, the percentages are still really lagging behind in the small and mid-sized organizations.

There are still agencies that do not have a female officer on their force at all. No women! That’s just not acceptable for serving the needs of the community. This issue has to continue to be addressed and changed, and support needs to be given to those organizations that are trying to diversify. If an agency has a female or someone from a community of color, but if the culture doesn’t support them they’re not going to stay. It is important to be addressing culture.

How important is mentorship to law enforcement and what advice would you give to someone seeking a mentor in the community?

Benefits of Mentorship

Businesses and industries have been using mentorship since the 1980s, and if we can learn from their practices the law enforcement profession will be well served. Research has shown that employees that have mentors tend to get promotions more, and those that are mentoring are also promoted more. It might be that just innate for them to take on leadership roles, and they are the ones that are seeking these promotions. The other thing that businesses and industries have shown is that their businesses prosper as employees prosper. So if we can instill a mentoring program within organizations, it can help with morale, it can help with retention, can help with career development, and succession planning.

NAWLEE’s Mentorship Matches

NAWLEE is training agencies to develop mentor programs. In addition, NAWLEE helps to help manage mentor matches. I’ve had the opportunity to have some amazing mentors that helped me think through my career helping me to navigate what I wanted to do and how to get there. I have also had the opportunity to mentor and help others that are figuring out which way they want their career to go, it’s not just about promotion. It’s really about developing oneself.

The NAWLEE mentoring training is two parts. First, any agency needs to determine the type of mentoring program they want to implement.  Then NAWLEE helps train the mentors and make matches. Over the past few years, we have learned that we need to be flexible in what mentoring looks likes based on the resources available.  While there is variation, the process is still valuable.

About Utility, Inc.

At Utility, we believe in using technology to enhance transparency. We are a vertically integrated supplier of software-based solutions for body-worn cameras and in-car cameras to capture video evidence, as well as digital media evidence management and video redaction for managing and releasing video.

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