Law enforcement agencies seek to increase number of female officers, BCA ahead of the curve

Law enforcement agencies push to hire more female officers

Law enforcement agencies push to hire more female officers

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) plans to fill more than 130 new positions over the next couple of years, from scientists to special agents. It comes as the agency works to increase the number of women on the force.

Only 12% of active peace officers are women in Minnesota, according to POST Board data.

“It’s important to have a female perspective at the table because we may look at an issue differently, we may look at an investigation differently,” said Senior Special Agency Rachel Pearson. “Sometimes a person just wants to talk to a female and we have an understanding and meet you where you’re at.”

She’s currently the commander of the Minnesota Human Trafficking Investigators Task Force. She joined the BCA after a recruitment process specifically targeting women for special agent positions.

“The time I got hired, there were multiple sections that were being hired,” she said. “There was the homicide unit, there was predatory crimes section, financial crimes was being hired during that time and narcotics as well.”

She added, “They really wanted to add females to make sure our perspectives are heard.”

According to the BCA, 53% of its law enforcement staff and more than 20% of its sworn positions are now female. The national average is about 28% and nearly 14%, respectively, according to FBI data.

“I’ve been in law enforcement for 20 years and definitely it’s been changing,” said Pearson. “[The local department] I came from, I was the first female supervisor ever in their history.”

There are a growing number of women leaders at the BCA. According to the agency, three out of four deputy superintendents are women.

Special Agent in Charge Michelle Frascone is one of two female special agents in charge.

“It’s the best job in the world,” she said. “For me, it’s very much about victim center, making sure that there’s a voice for the victims and community in which we serve.”

Frascone didn’t expect to have a career in law enforcement, as she started in a corporate job.

“I was in charge of overseeing a contract for law enforcement that was providing services and it was a St. Paul Police officer who came into my office in insurance and said, ‘I think you missed your calling,’” she explained.

Frascone went back to school and, more than 20 years later, has worked her way up through the ranks of a local department and now the BCA.

“Really have the chance to champion and push through those major cases,” she said.

She’s overseen force, homicide, narcotics, violent crime, and predatory crime investigations.

“We’re higher than the national average so we have definitely seen some success but we have room to grow,” said BCA Superintendent Drew Evans.

He explained their hiring push began after seeing the number of women agents dipping down due to retirements.

“We went to our women agents here internally and asked them to develop a plan and they took that to heart,” he said. “They went to work recruiting the really talented women investigators across the state of Minnesota. We’ve seen success with that.”

Overall, the number of active female licensed peace officers in Minnesota has been increasing, according to POST Board data.

“I think every city is different with it, I do see progress,” said St. Paul Park Police Chief Jessica Danberg, who believes outreach continues to be important.

While 261 of Minnesota’s more than 400 law enforcement agencies now have active female licensed peace officers, about a third of those agencies only have one female on the force.

Danberg, who said only about 8% of chiefs are female nationwide, is the only woman in her department.

“We are hoping to hire a female,” she said. “We’ve been hiring, open for hire for a while, we’re almost full. I haven’t seen any female officers apply with this last hiring bunch.”

She explained a variety of factors can hold women back from applying for law enforcement positions.

“Family, family is huge,” said Danberg. “It’s difficult unless you have close family support.”

She added, “It’s part of the job that yes, you could get hurt, you could get killed and that will prevent people too.”

Smaller agencies can also face additional recruiting challenges amid the competitive market.

“A lot of people don’t want to get hired as and retire as a street officer. They want to be in a leadership role or have more assignments, specialty assignments,” said Danberg. “Also when it comes to salaries, it’s hard to compete.”

For those interested, however, that also means there are more opportunities than ever.

“You can do your research and you can look at various agencies and go on ride-alongs and really think about what the best fit is for you,” she said. “It is a very fruitful career.”

As Frascone described her career, she said, “It’s been incredibly impactful and rewarding work.”

She, Pearson and Danberg encourage other women to pursue law enforcement and leadership positions.

“You have a voice,” said Pearson. “I think getting to see females in the leadership ranks at the BCA helps recruit people, helps support them and know that there are role models and they can be there someday too.”

Nationally, there is an effort called the 30 by 30 initiative, which hopes to increase representation in police recruit classes to 30 percent by 2030. Multiple agencies in Minnesota have signed that pledge.