The Lehigh University Police Department signed the 30×30 Pledge and joined the 30×30 Initiative, a national movement that aims to advance women in policing.
The 30×30 Initiative’s website said women make up only 12 percent of today’s sworn police officers and three percent of police leadership in the U.S.
The ultimate goal of the initiative is to increase the representation of women in police recruit classes to 30 percent by 2030 and ensure women officers are supported throughout their careers.
When LUPD signed the 30×30 Pledge in April, only one female officer was employed.
By the end of this month, that number will have increased to three.
LUPD Police Chief Jason Schiffer said shortly after signing the pledge the department was in a position to hire a new officer. Schiffer said the department highlighted Lehigh’s Principles of an Equitable Community in the first few sentences of the job posting, hoping to attract a diverse pool of applicants.
Schiffer said of the three candidates LUPD has hired since April, two are female officers.
Officer Tekisha Scruggs began working with LUPD in July. Scruggs said prior to applying, she did not know there was only one other female officer with the department.
“Once I was hired and I learned that, I was a tad bit shocked,” she said.
Scruggs said in prior departments she has worked for, there were more female supervisors than there are in LUPD. However, she said LUPD is the smallest department that she has worked for.
Elizabeth Miller Coleman, LUPD’s business manager of nearly 15 years, said the work of the police department is ever-evolving, and she has seen many staff members come and go throughout her time.
Coleman said there was one female officer who left shortly after she was hired, and then there was a period of time when LUPD had no female officers until Officer Lora Martin was hired in 2014.
“The work of the police department is ever-evolving. I’ve seen many people come and go within the police department,” Coleman said. “Our roles and responsibilities have always been not just safety and security, but we’ve merged ourselves into the community even more so through service. Law enforcement is one of those positions where everyday is something new.”
Another component of the 30×30 Initiative is to increase the number of women in law enforcement leadership positions.
“Going forward, what I’d really like to see is women in supervisory and leadership positions within our department, which is currently lacking and definitely needs to be something we have in the future,” Schiffer said.
Scruggs, who was a shift lieutenant before leaving her role at the University of Tennessee Police Department, said she could definitely visualize herself in a leadership role at LUPD.
Aside from increasing the number of female police officers, agencies who sign the pledge also commit to ensuring an inclusive, respectful and supportive environment for women in law enforcement.
Schiffer said he has been updating LUPD’s “Grooming Policy,” which dictates guidelines for officer’s outward appearances such as makeup, jewelry wearing, hair length, color and style to make the policies as gender neutral as possible.
“As long as the way someone is presenting themself at work isn’t a danger to themselves or others, why wouldn’t they be able to have a certain hairstyle?” he said.
Schiffer said he is committed to listening to the recommendations of LUPD’s Advisory Committee which conducts external reviews of policies and practices in order to create a diverse workforce.
Schiffer brought in a professional to refigure space in the LUPD women’s locker room in an effort to make it comparable to the men’s locker room.
“I’m committed to doing whatever is necessary to make sure we have a healthy working environment,” Schiffer said.