NOT A STATISTIC
The females behind the Beverly Hills Police Department
Thirteen females in Beverly Hills wake up every morning to make the city a safer place. These officers make up 10.7 percent of the Beverly Hills Police Department—including the first female chief of police.
“This is the most number of females we’ve ever had,” said Detective Rachel Shannon, a BHPD officer of over 21 years. “When Chief Spagnoli came, there were eight of us, so she’s hired a lot of females since she’s been here.”
According to Beverly Hills officers, Sandra Spagnoli is making a lot of changes. She is more sympathetic, she listens, and she has an open-door policy, meaning her officers can go and talk to her about anything at any time.
The BHPD values an increase in their gender representation, yet compared to the city’s population at 55.3 percent female, there is still a discrepancy.
Historically, police departments in Los Angeles precluded females from the force, until they allowed women to take desk jobs in the late 20th century. When the first female officers took to the field, their uniforms were still skirts and high heels.
LAPD heavily recruited females in the 1990s. Today there is a notable increase, with almost one third of the department comprised of female officers. The BHPD is a much smaller department, with only 130 officers compared to LAPD’s 13,000.
“A lot has changed in the past twenty years,” recounts Detective Shannon. “I remember distinctly a woman coming up to me and asking, ‘Where have they been hiding you?’ It took me aback for a second, because I didn’t really know how to respond, but then she added, ‘It’s so nice to see women of color in the department.’”
Beverly Hills resident Nikki Newman believes there are benefits to having more female patrols in her community.
“Women have different perspectives and ways of thinking. They’re better problem solvers so it’d be beneficial to our community to see more.”
Shannon said there are many advantages to having more women in the police department.
“Women react completely differently than men. We know how to talk a little bit more, we have a little bit more patience. It’s very different having a woman go to some type of a domestic violence than having a man go.”
Detective Audra Alatorre adds that the job comes with its challenges.
“I became a mom five years ago, and it took me about five years to start enjoying coming back to work. There’s a lot of days that I don’t even see my kids. It’s really hard and I think a lot of women don’t want to deal with that.”
Detective Shannon agreed.
“It’s tough on you if you’re a mom,” Shannon said. “It’s tough on you if you’re a wife. Sometimes we work sixteen hours. Sometimes you come home and you have a crying baby, and all you want to do is take a shower and go to bed.”
Detective Shannon never saw herself as a police officer growing up. Similarly, Detective Alatorre grew up in a family of law enforcement officers, but it wasn’t until her sister became a police officer that she decided to become a police cadet.
Women don’t grow up seeing themselves in these positions, but to Detective Shannon it is a fulfilling career dedicated to helping those in need. She emphasized that it takes a special type of person to want to become a police officer.
“You have to have a kind heart, you have to like people, and you have to have patience,” she said. “It’s a great career for women.”