- Associated Press - Sunday, February 19, 2017

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) - Navajo Nation Police Chief Phillip Francisco wants to encourage more women to join the police department. He said his department employs 48 women and 183 men across the Navajo Nation. This means women account for about 21 percent of the 231-officer force on Navajo, reported the Gallup Independent (https://bit.ly/1jl8YBA).

“Women comprise only a small percentage of the local law enforcement in agencies across the nation,” reports the Community Policing Dispatch, a publication of Community Oriented Policing Services, which operates under the U.S. Department of Justice.

“In the 1970s, women accounted for roughly 2 percent of sworn officers, with most of the women holding clerical positions,” according to COPS. “Yet, despite progressive legislation aimed at procuring gender equality in the United States, women today make up only 13 percent of the force, most significantly in larger departments.”

The same source states women in law enforcement “are often inexplicably resented” by their male counterparts and many face harassment. Additionally, “many women encounter a brass ceiling and are unable to rise to supervisory positions despite their qualifications. Many women do not even try to reach these positions because of fear of oppression from male coworkers.”

Navajo Nation Police Sgt. Shirley Sanisya said Navajo women face gender taboos associated with the culture. For instance, women in traditional Navajo culture do not hunt and are not supposed to handle weapons.

Sanisya, who works at the Shiprock district and started her career in law enforcement as a dispatcher, said she was able to overcome the taboos with the support of her family. She is married to another law enforcement officer, and the couple has children - whom they have raised with the assistance and support of their families. Sanisya said that when she first joined the police force, she was inspired and motivated to see other women in higher ranks. Now that she is a sergeant, she feels new women who start as cadets also feel inspired when they see Sanisya in charge.

Ramah Navajo Police Chief Darren Soland reported his force employs four female police officers and six male police officers. The Ramah Navajo Police Department is a separate agency from the Navajo Nation Police Department.

Soland said he supports women in law enforcement.

“It is as important to recruit, hire and retain female police officers because they can bring many attributes to the profession, such as compassion with children and other victims that a male officer may not be able to connect with due to their size and stature,” Soland said.

“Also, male and female officers complement one another on patrol and provide balance so the proper response can be provided to citizens requesting service. The same holds true with detention services.”

According to the National Center for Women and Policing, 20 years of research have demonstrated that women utilize a style of policing that relies less on physical force and more on communication skills to defuse violent situations.

“Women police officers are therefore much less likely to be involved in occurrences of police brutality, and are also much more likely to effectively respond to police calls regarding violence against women, which today remains the single largest category of calls to police agencies nationwide,” the center states.


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