Women have strong presence at KSUPD

Simon Husted

Two-to-one ratio above average.

Neely talks about why she thinks the ratio is different from other university police departments.

Neely says a woman can do this job as well as a man.

Rossi says it isn’t about gender; it’s about who is the best for the job.

At a typical university police department, male officers outnumber women four to one. But at Kent State’s police department, there is one female officer for every two males.

The national statistics were revealed by a 2004-2005 report by the U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics.

“This is a male-dominated field, but we (women) can do it ourselves,” said Brittnei Neely, a first-year officer at the Kent State Police Department. “We can do the job just as well as a man can. I think females are starting to realize that.”

Out of the 29 officers at KSUPD, 10 of them are female. However, the force’s male-to-female ratio was not always as balanced.

Lt. Paula Rossi said when she first joined the department in 1983 she was only one of five female officers on the force. That year, the department also had 29 officers total.

Although the department had half as many female officers as they do now, Rossi said Kent State’s record of hiring women officers was impressive compared to other departments back then.

“In some places, there were no women at all,” Rossi said. “Not (just) universities, but departments in general.”

During her career, Rossi said she’s had the honor of being the first female supervisor in Portage County and the first female lieutenant in the Kent State department.

While Rossi was the first female officer promoted to such titles, she said she is confident her promotions had nothing to do with her gender, but with her top scores on assessment tests given throughout the department.

“(KSU Police Department Chief John Peach) doesn’t look at race or gender or anything like that,” Rossi said. “He picks the best people who would fit here at Kent State.”

Rossi said she has never received any hassle from friends or family about her career choice. She said much of the positive response she received can be attributed to the peers she surrounded herself with: mostly women who pursued male-dominated occupations.

“My roommate in college wound up being a lieutenant in the Air Force.” Rossi said.

Similar to Rossi, Neely, who joined the KSUPD in September, received a warm welcome from friends and family when she decided to become a police officer.

“My mom was all for it,” Neely said, adding her dad at first had worries because of her “petite” physique.

“He’s okay with it now,” she said. “He knows I can handle myself.”

Neely said the department’s balance between females and males adds a diverse quality to the force.

“That’s one of the main qualities that attracted me to this department,” Neely said. “You have people from so many backgrounds and they have different experiences. I honestly think it’s a quality important to have.”

Neely explained as long as gender norms continue breaking down, police departments will continue gathering a more balanced male-to-female workforce.

However, Rossi and Neely agreed the day when most police departments meet an even composition of males and females is not in the foreseeable future.

“I’m not sure if that’ll ever happen, but I’m sure as time goes on, you’ll definitely see an increase (of women in the force),” Neely said. “I don’t know if it’ll be 50/50, but I definitely think you’ll see an increase.”

Contact safety reporter Simon Husted at [email protected].