West Jordan police taking on nationwide initiative to recruit women to force
Mar 31, 2023, 11:15 PM | Updated: Apr 3, 2023, 5:32 am
WEST JORDAN, Utah — Opening the door to step into a patrol SUV, a West Jordan officer signs onto the radio to start responding to calls. Dispatchers bring up an address, saying a report has come in of a woman whose family can’t get in touch with her.
“Right now, we are going on a missing person investigation,” officer Alondra Zavala said, as she drove toward the address.
After arriving and clearing the house, before brainstorming with the family on where the woman might be, Zavala left and happened upon a crash. She immediately jumped out and ran up to a car sitting in the intersection, its bumper in pieces on the road.
“Are you OK?” she asked, of the woman sitting in the driver’s seat. The woman said she was shaken up.
“OK, do you need medical attention?” Zavala offered. She helped the woman collect herself and get her car out of the way, before starting an accident report.
Zavala heads toward the various calls that come in each day, she knows she doesn’t just bring her police experience and expertise — she also brings a unique perspective and dynamic, being a female.
Zavala is one of 14 women in the department.
“The 11%, yep,” she said, with a smile while sitting in her patrol SUV.
The West Jordan Police Department is hoping to increase that number, as the department looks for ways to diversify its staff to better reflect the community it serves.
The department signed on to the national 30×30 Initiative. The goal is to have 30% female police recruits by the year 2030. Through the initiative, Zavala explained, the department will look for ways to recruit more women who might not otherwise consider the policing profession.
“I think women tend to think maybe it’s not a job for them, or maybe they don’t know the opportunities that West Jordan offers, and also what it’s even like being a woman in law enforcement,” she said. “But you’ll never know until you come and try it out.”
According to the 30×30 Initiative, women make up 12 percent of sworn officers and three percent of police leadership in the U.S. At West Jordan PD, just one of the 14 women serves in a leadership position.
The 30 x 30 website explains that research suggests female officers use less force and less excessive force, are named in few complaints and lawsuits, and are perceived by communities as being more honest and compassionate.
West Jordan Police Department is the first city police agency in Utah to sign on to the 30 x 30 initiative. According to its website, the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office and University of Utah Police Department have also joined 30 x 30.
“There’s definitely a lot that we bring to the table,” Zavala said. “I’d say one of the big things is we are great communicators — at least I like to believe that we are– and that is a great thing when it comes to reaching out to the community.”
While increasing female representation is important, Zavala talked about how it’s just one part of a larger plan to diversify the force in many ways.
“I know we have at least 25% of our community speaks Spanish, so I think something that’s important to West Jordan is that we represent the people that we’re serving, and that happens to be diversity,” Zavala, who is fluent in Spanish, said.
She said many people in the community are Spanish, Tongan, Samoan, Thai and Vietnamese.
“We try to best serve our community, and what that looks like is finding people who speak those languages or look like they look like.”
Zavala didn’t have someone recruit her to join in the kind of outreach the department hopes to do in the future.
She ended up in the profession because of past experiences with police. Zavala explained she started seeing law enforcement at a young age because of a family member who often got in trouble.
Then, a few years ago on a trip to Mexico, Zavala said she was kidnapped with her family by law enforcement, and later rescued by law enforcement.
“I think that was kind of a big eye-opener for me to really see law enforcement has the ability to make a such huge impact on someone’s life when it comes to being super negative, or super positive — but you can do it all in one call.”
Her goal is to make a difference during both the good and bad situations, and foster positive relationships with the people she comes across.
Zavala decided to stop and pass out stickers to a family sledding down a hill during Thursday’s shift.
“It just looked like you guys were having fun!” she said. The mom explained they were visiting from Florida, and Zavala recommended the best sledding hills in the area.
After driving by two young girls waving signs on the road near the sledding hill, she stopped the SUV and hopped out.
The girls were wearing a different kind of uniform, with signs advertising Girl Scout cookies. She laughed and talked with them.
“You want to be a girl cop? It’s a great career!” she said.
She joined the girls at their cookie table and bought a couple of boxes. The group asked to take a photo, everyone laughing and smiling.
“I just wanted to have that opportunity to be that person who makes that impact. Whether it’s in a really good situation or it’s in a bad situation — but you’re being helpful and turning it into a good situation — or at least, having a positive impact when they see the uniform.”