The University of Arizona Police Department held a promotion ceremony for two female UAPD officers on Wednesday, Feb. 16, at the UAPD headquarters on 1852 E. First St.
This comes only weeks after they hired the first female police chief in the university’s history.
It’s all part of a pledge called the 30x30 Initiative that UAPD took in September of last year to increase women in policing to 30% by 2030.
“Women are underrepresented in the profession,” said Cindy Ewer, a police lieutenant at the UAPD. “It's kind of been a pledge that we decided was really important to diversify our department to represent the communities that we serve, and it's not even just about women. It's about the underserved population and increasing the diversity within our agency.”
A Pew Trust study found that women make up 7% of state police agencies, and in 2021 Arizona reported only 4% of women in state police agencies.
The university’s police department reports about 13%, although it can fluctuate because of how small the department is.
“Having somebody to look up to or somebody to to be a mentor to you is important,” Ewer said. “Having equal representation so that you know, you're not the only female around sometimes. It's really important having females that want to empower each other and support each other.”
“Having somebody to look up to or somebody to be a mentor to you is important [like] having equal representation so that you're not the only female around sometimes," Ewer said. "It's really important having females that want to empower each other and support each other.”
Ewer started at the UAPD as a dispatcher and then became a corporal, then moved to the first female sergeant and now serves as the first female lieutenant where she supervises half of the patrol. She’s seen the amount of women fluctuate from four female officers up to nine, and now to the seven women working in the department.
The two promotions on Wednesday brought the number of corporals on the patrol squad to three men and three women, a first in the university police force’s history.
Melanie Sultan was one of the two women celebrated in her new role as corporal. Sultan began working as a police officer three years ago, but previously worked as a social worker for CODAC and Casa de los Ninos after graduating with a degree in psychology and political science.
“Behavioral health has always been a passion of mine,” Sultan said, "so I find that it really is paramount to the job that we do as law enforcement now.”
Coming from a family of law enforcement officers, she felt “called back” to a law enforcement profession and decided to take a shot at it.
“For me, the university police department specifically was alluring,” Sultan said. “Partially because of the type of policing that takes place, there is a lot of community-based policing, which is something that I really value.”
She suggested anyone even slightly interested in policing to request to go on a ride-along with a police officer, something that can easily be done through a form request and a background check.
“It's a culture where we need to change,” Ewer said. “The culture to be more accepting of females in the role.”
About 85 agencies had joined the pledge when UAPD decided to join after seeing other Pac-12 schools do the same. However, the police force has been advocating for more women in policing for years.
Camp Fury is a partnership between public safety and the Girl Scouts that introduces teen girls to careers in the police force or as firefighters.
“It gives us a chance to mentor them and educate them on careers,” said Corporal Michele Khan, the second woman being promoted to corporal, “and hopefully give them some insights so that they can make more of an educated decision on whether this is the type of work they want to go into and then having a little bit of exposure to what we actually do.”
Khan mentions that the girls get to go on ride-alongs in the police cars with the lights on, as well as participate in a simulator. On the fire-fighting side, the girls put out real fires and repel off of buildings.
“This camp is such a confidence builder. And by the end of the week these girls have come out of their shells, and they're just showing superb leadership skills by the end of this camp,” Khan said. “It's really amazing.”
Khan has been working as a police officer at the university since 2017, but she first started at the Pima Community College Police Department in 2013. In her new position, she works on administrative tasks as well as managing other officers in her squadron.
It’s not only representation women are seeking. The 30x30 website states that female officers use less excessive force, are named in fewer complaints and lawsuits, are perceived by communities as being more honest and compassionate, see better outcomes for crime victims, especially in sexual assault cases and make fewer discretionary arrests.
“Am I gonna take down a 300 pound, 6-foot-5 guy who is in front of me and is not listening?” Khan asked. “My tactic sometimes is de-escalation with my words and it works. So, you just sometimes do things differently, but the end goal can be the same.”
Follow Susan Barnett on Twitter