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Peoria Police Department wants to bring more women into law enforcement

 Peoria Police Department
Peoria Police Department

The Peoria Police Department wants to encourage more women to explore a career in law enforcement.

The department is part of a national “30 by 30” initiative, aiming for at least a 30% female workforce by 2030. They’re also hosting events like the one planned for Wednesday, March 8, which also is International Women’s Day. A panel of five to six currently-employed women officers will talk about their lives and careers, and answer questions for potential recruits.

Officer Jenna Long, a Peoria patrol officer on the third shift, is assisting with the event. She became a police officer at 29, after taking on the task of raising five children. She started out in nursing, but decided it wasn’t the right fit.

“When I was younger, I was told women don't really become police officers,” Long said. “It's not a feminine job, and that we traditionally need to do teaching and nursing and my heart was always in this job.”

Long spent seven years as a dispatcher in different departments while working on a degree in criminal justice. She said once her kids were a little older, a career move just made sense.

“It was always the end goal. I always wanted to do it,” she said. “I just needed to find the right time for me, and for my family.”

For other women considering the career, if their concern is balancing law enforcement with being a good, significant other or mother, Long said she’s proof it can be done. The key for her is communication.

“There's always a way you guys can figure out how to make it work and your kids will respect that you're working parents,” she said. “And they'll appreciate the hard work that you're putting into the community.”

Currently, Long said there are 24 female officers out of the 198 employed by the Peoria Police Department, putting them right around the national average of roughly 12%. That number is important, she said, as female officers can bring a different range of experiences to the job.

“We have different empathy towards situations,” she said. “In situations for example, like sex assault victims, we tend to have a lot more empathy in situations like that.”

But the bottom line for Long is this: anyone who’s passionate about it can and should pursue a career in law enforcement.

“If we believe that we can do something, and that is our passion and our goal,” she said, "then there shouldn't be nothing stopping us and getting in our way.”

The Women in Law Enforcement Recruitment event begins at 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 8 at the Peoria Police Department on SW Adams Street.

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Collin Schopp is a reporter at WCBU. He joined the station in 2022.