DC Sheriff’s Office Joins 30x30 Pledge

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Michelle Phillips

MADISON–Dane County Sheriff David Mahoney says one of the reasons he wanted to join the 30x30 Pledge–an initiative to hire 30 percent women to law enforcement by 2030–was to lead by example. And as the head of the National Sheriff’s Association, he has a big audience, the organization has 3,080 sheriff’s offices as members throughout the country.

“When it was brought forth to me, I immediately felt it was the right direction for us to move in, and I was happy to sign,” Mahoney said of the measure.

Policing Project, a division of the NYU law school, outlines that female officers are less likely to use excessive force, have fewer complaints and lawsuits, are perceived to be honest and compassionate, have better outcomes for crime victims, especially sexual assault cases and make fewer discretionary arrests, particularly of non-white residents.

“I’ve seen that play out in my own career,” Mahoney echoed. “Many women in law enforcement are far more better prepared to have conversations and associations with complainants and defendant negotiations before physical action, confrontation or arrest.”

He added that female officers often have a better rapport with victims of crimes. “That leads to, long term beneficial relationships with the victims,” Mahoney said.

Mahoney said another reason for joining the 30x30 Initiative is representation in the community, another priority he espoused in his 14 years as Dane County Sheriff. Currently, the Dane County Sheriff’s office has about 22 percent women in sworn positions, nearly double the national average of 12 percent. To reach that 30 percent goal, the sheriff’s department will work with a recruiter.

“We must be representative of the community we serve without preference to race, religion or sexual preference–not just the sheriff’s office, but in all of the criminal justice system,” Mahoney stated. 

When Mahoney first began his career in the 1970s, he worked for the Middleton Police Department, who had recently hired their first female officer. He said the Madison Police Department and the Dane County Sheriff’s Office were some of the first departments in the nation to hire female officers. 

Women in the sheriff’s office hold all levels of positions, “It’s all across the board, from entry level deputies to women working in the jail, detectives and special teams,” he said.

Mahoney said he feels that the 30x30 initiative also, “provides a road map for policing in this country.”

“As a nation, as we look at reforms, we are studying inherent bias and cultural awareness. I believe we will see an increase in women (officers) in the county. I don’t think it is widespread enough, though,” he said, and added that he only knew of two other law enforcement agencies in Wisconsin that had joined the 30x30 Pledge. 

Mahoney said the numbers of women in law enforcement in some of the suburbs surrounding Madison are low. He predicted that Middleton, Sun Prairie and Fitchburg Police Departments would be most likely to join the initiative. 

In an email, Middleton Police Chief Troy Hellenbrand told the Times-Tribune, “We are very interested in participating and have been in discussions with the organizer of the 30x30 Initiative. We are just looking through all of the different requirements and documents which are required to participate. We are hoping to make a decision on this within the next couple of months.”

Mahoney said he said also realizes that for tiny police or sheriff’s departments in the country, it may be inhibitive to hire female officers. Nationwide less than 100 law enforcement agencies have joined the new initiative, but the hope is to have 250 on board by the end of the year.

As Mahoney prepares to leave law enforcement when he retires on May 8, he said the 30x30 Pledge is on his training list for new sheriff Kalvin Barrett. 

“I believe Kalvin Barrett will follow suit with this as a priority,” Mahoney concluded.

To learn more about the 30x30 Initiative, visit: policingproject.org.

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