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‘Women are just as capable as men:’ Texas police recruiter wants more female police officers

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Caroline Tien

San Antonio Express-News

May 4—Gunshots reverberated through the air as San Antonio Police Department cadets fired pistols at targets, offering a sneak peek at what civilians attending the department’s Situational Awareness Training for Women this Saturday will be doing.

“I can guarantee they’re going to get the best instruction possible,” said Rangemaster Spenc Jones, who supervised the exercise.

Hoping to boost female recruitment numbers, the San Antonio Police Department is holding the free event 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the department’s training academy off Southeast Loop 410. Roughly 50 of the 100 spots had been filled as of Tuesday morning, according to SAPD Public Information Officer Jennifer Rodriguez.

While the event is open to all women ages 18-44, it is specifically intended for those interested in joining the force. Only about 12 percent (282) of the department’s 2,000-plus sworn officers are women; the same is true of the department’s cadets, Rodriguez said.

“The national average is 14 (percent), so we’re always looking to pick that number up,” Rodriguez said.

Female officers may have attributes and skills their male counterparts don’t, making their presence an asset in policing. Victims of domestic violence and sexual assault often prefer speaking to female officers than to male officers, Rodriguez said. Similarly, female officers are often better at de-escalating tense situations than male officers, she added.

“Much like the military, law enforcement is male-dominated,” said SAPD Recruiter Juan Garcia. “But that shouldn’t be the case.”

Jones will be teaching women the “four cardinal rules” of firearm safety: treat every weapon as if it were loaded, never point the muzzle at anything you are not willing to destroy, be sure of your target and the surrounding area and never put your finger near the trigger until you are ready to fire.

“And we’re also going to go over different manners of storing weapons safely, carrying weapons safely and just having weapons in your house and on your person safely in day-to-day life,” Jones said. There’s no need to be afraid, he added, noting he taught his wife to shoot when they first met more than 20 years ago.

In addition to honing their firearm safety skills, the women who attend Saturday’s event will be able to hear from female SAPD officers and practice maneuvering through the academy’s obstacle course.

Shrugging on a 10-pound weighted vest, Detective Jennifer Aelvoet provided a demonstration. She crawled through culverts, clambered over beams and walls, hopped in then out of a giant pot, wove through two rows of traffic cones and dragged a 165-pound dummy to “safety.”

The course “simulates a real-life foot chase,” Rodriguez said, a situation that officers should be prepared to encounter.

“It will happen often in somebody’s career,” Garcia said.

Completing Aelvoet’s portion of the course in a maximum of four minutes and three seconds is a prerequisite for becoming an officer. However, many women find the second obstacle, the four-and-a-half-foot-high beam, hard to clear, so attendees will be taught techniques for conquering it.

“Women are just as capable as men,” Rodriguez said, ” … and so we’re just hoping to raise that number of 282.”

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