Interagency training is valuable to attend and important to support

Interagency training is valuable to attend and important to support

By Sgt. Nancy M. Dowdy 

Even though the public tends to see cops as merely a uniform, we are nearly as diverse as the public we serve. However, we don’t entirely mirror our communities when it comes to gender.   As a woman in law enforcement, I never gave this much thought.  I was never directly exposed to any real “issues” because of my sex, and I had no interest in giving credence to someone I perceived as sexist, or as I like to say, “pig-headed.” I was also fortunate enough to become a police officer in a large agency where many pioneering women had gone before me, helping to pave the way for my generation.  Both of my parents were in the profession, and I grew up around men in law enforcement.  From my father, a state trooper and agency leader, to meeting other “fellas” at squad family picnics, I never really noticed any bias toward women.  In fact, I was encouraged by my dad’s peers to become a law enforcement officer.  I admired their comradery and appreciated their support.  With all of that background, I was not aware of how many women do not have it as “easy” as I did.  There are so many women who are still the only female on their agency!  In 2019!

I had the good fortune to be a featured presenter at the International Association of Women Police (IAWP) last month in Anchorage, Alaska.  If you’ve never been there, go.  The people and cops of Anchorage and Alaska in general are kind, fun, and engaging people – not to mention the whole area is insanely beautiful.

Let me ask you all, how many of you have never heard of the IAWP?  I had never even heard of the organization until about 2 years ago.  That would be 18 YEARS into my career.  How is that acceptable?  In fact, I didn’t even know there was a National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives (NAWLEE) until my own agency hosted them!  Why is that?  Well, I suppose because I never felt like I needed my own group so I didn’t go looking.  However, was it possible that no one else in my organization knew about them either?  Obviously I was not the only one because when I was talking to friends around the country from other departments about my chance to present at IAWP, they had no idea what I was talking about.  I asked women of all ranks.  There were even female commanders at agencies who had never heard of the IAWP. How is that even possible with today’s global connections thanks to technology, social media and more?

What I discovered is that we, as women, don’t always do a great job of sharing information.  I had written an article on this years ago, but I am sad to discover that the problem is still fairly widespread.  Now, what I did see at this year’s conference is that there are a TON of women doing it right.  I met some truly amazing law enforcement professionals from all over the world!  I met an amazing Alaska State Wildlife Trooper who flies her own plane.  I met another Alaska State Trooper who motivates other women (by fantastic example) to take better care of themselves.  I met a woman from Nome, Alaska who patrols for 12 hours at a time by herself.  As a city cop with backup around the corner, that was pretty wild to me.  I met women from Australia, Germany, Papau New Guinea, Liberia, Ukraine, Canada, Mexico and Ghana.  There were women from Japan and Indonesia!  Incidentally, the conference next year will be in Indonesia!  In total there were 43 countries represented at the conference.  It was an amazing thing to see.  All of these women working together to provide better training and sisterhood to one another.  I had the great opportunity to hear stories of bravery and accomplishment on the breaks from so many women.

The IAWP does an amazing job of bringing women together.  They bring together so many different perspectives and create an environment in which women can find acceptance, comradery, and the ability to mentor and be mentored.  When you are one of very few, or even the only woman on your agency, imagine how freeing that can be!

Listening to them, I wondered how my career might have been different had I known about these organizations early on.  How might it have shaped the leader I became?

More specifically, I considered the moments where I may have failed to help another woman on the force. Had I predetermined how I felt about someone when they walked in based solely on a self-comparison between us? Have I looked at another woman as competition, and then not supported her in order to elevate myself? Did I fail to share information about a training opportunity because I wanted to be the only one?  It would be completely untrue to deny that I did any of the above in one situation or another in my lifetime, even if it was “unintentional.”

There are so many ways that we can help one another, but for starters, you need to learn about and join some of these groups.  One, it will help you learn about the world we live in.  Two, you will find yourself grateful for the freedoms we have in America.  Finally, you will make friends that will help you grow as an individual, and as a police officer.

We owe it to one another to get out there and learn, especial from each other.  I learned so much in my week with women (and men) from all over the world.  While we all came from different backgrounds, we all had the same internal motivation:  we wanted to be the best cops we could be.  If you’re in the police profession, next time you see an email or a flyer about a training opportunity or an interesting association, don’t just hit “delete,” check it out.  And if you’re a citizen who supports law enforcement look for opportunities to support these events and organizations when they come to your area.  As Sir Robert Peele said in 1829 “The police are the public and the public are the police.”  Let’s work together, regardless of gender or nationality, to keep our communities safe.

For information these organizations:

International Association of Women Police –

National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives –

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