75 percent of local police fall below national average in hiring female officers

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(WSLS 10) - When it comes to hiring female police officers, the majority of southwest and central Virginia departments fall below the national average.

Nationwide, only 13 percent of sworn-in officers are female. But after evaluating 52 police departments from Southside, southwest and central Virginia, we found more than 75 percent fall below the national average when it comes to hiring female officers. The data is based on the 2014 Virginia State Police Uniform Crime Report released earlier this month.

"It doesn't phase me that there aren't as many women as men because it's not really a focal point," said Roanoke City Police Officer Chelsea Faber. "When we go on calls I'm treated just like everyone else."

Roanoke City Police is one of the few departments above the national average, with 36 females out of the 246 sworn-in officers, or 14.6 percent.

Danville Police (17.2 percent) and the Pittsylvania County Sheriff's Office (15.3 percent) are also above the national average.

But plenty of departments are falling short, with none more apparent than the Virginia State Police. The agency had 1,974 troopers statewide in 2014. According to the report, only 108 were women or 5.5 percent.

"All of our officers meet the same standard," said Blacksburg Police Lieutenant Mike Albert.

According to the Virginia State Police crime report, Blacksburg had five female officers out of a total of 62 in 2014. But since then, Albert said the department has added three female officers. It now has eight women among its 63 sworn-in officers.

"What we're looking for is the best possible candidate regardless of their sex, ethnicity or whatever," Albert said.

It's likely female officers like Faber will remain in the minority into the future. But she hopes more women will help change a male dominated profession.

"Breaking the mold that this is just a male job and only males can be police officers," she said. "That's obviously not true."

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