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SPD Reflects on 30×30 Initiative, Addresses Community Questions, Concerns during Women’s History Month

As Women’s History Month nears a close this March, the Seattle Police Department is reflecting on its progress in the 30×30 Initiative. The pledge is designed to bolster the participation of women in law enforcement to 30 percent of sworn capacity by the year 2030.

Police Chief Adrian Z. Diaz ordered an independent report to gather the perspectives of women within the department and we shared that report publicly in February. This is all part of our work to grow and evolve into a better, more equitable law enforcement agency.

Since the release of the report, the department has received criticism and many questions about where we stand today and where we’re going. That’s a part of public service and we hear you. We are here to serve everyone.

Some of the questions we’ve received involve allegations of name-calling, sexist behavior, and threats. SPD does not tolerate this kind of behavior.

Specifically, we have received some of these questions:

  • “What percentage of SPD sworn officers are female?”
  • “Has SPD looked into these specific instances listed in the report and done anything to address them?”
  • “Would the department care to comment about what the biggest retention challenges are and what it’s doing to retain female officers?”
  • “What are the next steps following the report, and will the department implement the report’s recommendations?”

The Seattle Police Department unequivocally values, encourages, and welcomes women at all ranks and assignments. Under the leadership of Chief Diaz, which follows the tenures of two nationally recognized female police chiefs at SPD, women have risen to comprise a historically high percentage of leadership at Executive, Captain and Lieutenant levels.  These leaders serve in operational, investigative, and administrative roles – all of which are critical to the success of SPD. As of the most recent count, there are about 150 women in deployable roles.

We appreciate the many female officers who make the Seattle Police Department better. One of the questions we’ve received involves a former Lieutenant, who in 2023, applied to return to SPD as an Assistant Chief under the leadership of Chief Diaz. Prior to leaving SPD, the Lieutenant was transferred from Patrol to Investigations – a position where she had the opportunity to serve as an Acting Captain – and was part of a routine round of transfers intended to support advancing her career. Transfers at the Lieutenant and Captain levels are typical in SPD and specifically authorized under their union contract to meet operational and administrative needs and to provide members with diverse experiences. It is likely those experiences contributed to her current position at a department in a neighboring community.

Additionally, no bureau, section, unit, or position in SPD is less critical than any other and women play a pivotal role.  For example, the Professional Standards Bureau, which is responsible for all department training, including defensive tactics, firearms and policies related to use of force, pursuits, arrests and emergency responses, is highly regarded worldwide as a model for police training and internal systems. It is at the core of all SPD does. This bureau, under female leadership, has propelled this department into and beyond full and effective compliance with the federal consent decree.

SPD is proud to be one of the first departments in the country to sign on to the 30×30 Initiative, which has four phases of implementation at SPD.  Phases I and II, which establish baseline data and perspectives through quantitative and qualitative measures, have been successfully completed.

Chief Diaz ordered the department to commission the Seattle Police Department 30×30 Report so we can more fully understand the perspectives of female employees.  The Chief’s decision to order this study and share it, so transparently with the world, has been publicly supported by the leaders of the 30×30 Project.

Phase III is currently in progress and SPD has convened an all-women workgroup representing diverse positions across the department to develop a list of actionable recommendations, both tangible and in-tangible, to address factors that may pull women out of the workforce (e.g., different career paths, greater opportunities elsewhere, or oft-noted family demands of caring for children or elderly parents) or push women out of the workplace (e.g., inequities, real or perceived, in promotion, assignment, or workplace culture).   This workgroup has already taken charge of establishing clear objectives to enhance the viability of a career in SPD not only for women and families but for any candidate seeking a rewarding, community-centered career.  Phase IV will include a clear roadmap for implementation of accepted recommendations.

The need for this work is by no means unique to SPD, or even to law enforcement, and we benefit by the on-going work of organizations across all sectors of our society.  Whether in other civil service professions, such as fire services (a field in which women comprise fewer than 5% of commissioned members), the military, or white collar fields such as law, medicine, and tech, the challenges faced by women in the workplace are well-documented and studied  (challenges that, as NPR itself has reported, were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which laid bare that, despite tremendous advancements of women in all industries over the past five decades, women still shoulder the brunt of household and family responsibilities).  Even as we see women making tremendous professional strides, the labor market as a whole has seen a significant decline in the number of women entering the job market since 2019.  As SPD continues to recover from the dual shocks of both the pandemic and the events of 2020, SPD is doing all it can to ensure that it is creating a workplace environment that is healthy, welcoming, and offers equal opportunity for all of its members to succeed.

Both the city and the department have robust systems of investigation, including the Office of Police Accountability, the City Ombud for Workplace Equity, an SPD EEO Complaint and Investigations process, and Seattle Human Resources Investigations into sexual harassment. Retaliation is specifically prohibited and independently investigated. SPD wants to hear the concerns of its employees, especially with regards to race and gender, so that they can be addressed individually and systemically. SPD also takes all threats of workplace violence extremely seriously; any threat of violence must be investigated and appropriately dealt with. 

At the same time, as there are no barriers to filing complaints, it is important to acknowledge that people, both internal and external to the department, can abuse and have demonstrably abused these systems by weaponizing them against employees for disingenuous reasons. This issue has been raised with, and by, both OPA and the Office of the Inspector General.

We invite you to watch this video about our participation in the 30×30 Initiative here. You can also view our Women in Leadership series on our Facebook page, highlighting women who lead at SPD.

To all the women of the Seattle Police Department, we appreciate you and thank you for your service.