Female officers currently make up about 12 percent of the country's police force.
Officer Paige Michaud, second from right, is one of Brunswick's three female police officers. Credit: Courtesy of the Brunswick Police Department / Maine Public

The Brunswick Police Department is the first municipal law enforcement agency in Maine to sign on to a national initiative to increase the number of female police officers, who currently make up about 12 percent of the country’s police force.

Brunswick Police Chief Scott Stewart said the nonprofit group 30×30 aims to grow female participation in law enforcement roles to 30 percent by 2030.

“I wanted to make sure we did what we could to break down those barriers, open up that philosophy of ‘it doesn’t matter what gender you are,'” Stewart said. “It’s a great career opportunity, and I encourage women to take a look at that.”

Stewart said his last two hires were female officers and the department has three women in total, about 9 percent of the 33 officers on staff. Requirements for 30×30 include having gender specific uniforms and gear and separate rooms where a female officer could pump breast milk.

The University of Southern Maine’s new police chief, Grainne Perkins, said it’s one reason she accepted the job. Perkins said flexible scheduling for women who are caregivers could attract more women to public safety jobs.

“We can accommodate those type of things with our schedule,” Perkins said. “I think it’s looking at flexibility and cleaning your lens and considering just because it’s always been done like that doesn’t mean it’s the way we still have to do it.”

Perkins is confident she can meet the 30 percent female officer goal by 2030, but she said more needs to be understood about why women are leaving police departments after only a few years. She also said militarized police academies need reforms to attract more women as well.

Nonprofit 30×30 reports that more than 300 police departments across the country have signed on to the initiative since 2021.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.