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Few Women Opt to Join Cadets' Long Blue Line

Police: Despite increased recruitment efforts, females make up only 9% of sworn officers in Orange County. Nationwide, the figure is 14%.


Twenty-seven white-gloved cadets marched through the campus of Golden West College in Huntington Beach on Friday to graduate from the school's police academy.

All but three had shaved their heads. Those with hair neatly tucked into their police caps were the few women who took on the rigorous six-month training required to become a police officer.

Despite continued efforts to recruit women, many don't consider law enforcement as a career, said David S. Barr, director of the Criminal Justice Training Center at Golden West College. Although recent classes have averaged three women, last semester there were none.

Despite recruitment efforts over the last decade to diversify the ranks, a study two years ago by the Los Angeles Times showed Orange County's police departments lagging the national average when it comes to employing female officers.

Women make up about 14% of sworn officers nationwide, but they account for about 9% of the ranks in Orange County, according to information provided by all 22 agencies.

The number represented a slight increase from 1989, when the county average was about 8%.

"We have come a long way with minorities and women but we always want to see even more diversity," said La Habra Police Chief Dennis Kies, secretary of the Orange County Police Chiefs Assn. Barr said women recruits, as well as men, often need to improve their upper-body strength to scale a six-foot wall during training. While many women are not as strong as male officers, they often bring better communication skills to the job, he said.

Bonnie Breeze, 36, of Dana Point said the training was tough but not tough enough to stop her. Breeze is a former professional cyclist.

"It was hard, but I like hard training," said Breeze, who will work for the Tustin Police Department.

Jaime Randall, 21, of San Juan Capistrano had previously worked in a police department explorer program and longed for the chance to become an officer.

The training "wasn't overly hard, but it was hard enough to stress me out," said Randall, who will join the Huntington Beach Police Department.

The police academy training program requires cadets to complete 966 hours of training over 24 weeks. Training covers procedures in cases ranging from homicide to sexual assault to missing persons.

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