The Pennsylvania State Police, whose reputation has been tarnished by disclosures of sexual misconduct, has among the lowest percentage of female state troopers in the nation, the Philadelphia Inquirer says. Pennsylvania had 167 female troopers, or 4.02 percent, on a force of 4,152 full-time sworn officers, according to a report released in June 2000 by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. That ranked Pennsylvania 31st among the nation’s 49 state law enforcement agencies. The Pennsylvania agency has reported an increase to 4.33 percent, but it’s still below the 2000 national average of 6.47 percent.
Law enforcement experts say the low number of women on the force could have contributed to a climate that has resulted in the recent disclosures of sexual misconduct and harassment, mostly by male troopers. “That’s what we usually recommend to people who are having these problems: Get more women!” said Penny Harrington, a former police chief in Portland, Ore., who founded a national organization that advocates for women in law enforcement.
Of 163 allegations of sexual misconduct investigated by the State Police’s internal affairs division from 1995 to 2001, 68 were substantiated against 75 troopers, State Police officials have said. Fourteen troopers were fired; four were reinstated upon appeal. Harrington said that an agency the size of Pennsylvania’s should average no more than two such complaints per year.
State Police officials agree they need more female troopers and have been more aggressive this year in recruiting women – including launching a mobile recruitment office that roams county fairs and other special events. They say Pennsylvania’s force is not much different from other state police agencies, as they all significantly lag behind municipal police departments in percentages of female officers. The national average for municipal departments is 14.2 percent, according to April 2002 figures from the National Center for Women and Policing.