DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- The Durham Police Department is making it a priority to add more female officers to its ranks over the next decade.
On Friday, the agency announced it joined more than 140 agencies across the country in signing the 30x30 Pledge. The 30x30 Pledge is a national movement that aims to have 30% of a department's recruits be females by 2030.
The Durham Police Department said around 17% of its officers are currently women, however, half of Durham's population is female.
"This department fully recognizes the value that qualified female officers, and candidates in other underrepresented groups, bring for improved public safety. We look forward to formally implementing the 30x30 Pledge as part our recruitment strategy," said Durham Police Chief Patrice Andrews in a statement.
The department formally signed the pledge in November but is launching its efforts this month for Women's History Month.
Ronelle Hinton is one of the female officers who has served with DPD for around 12 years. In her role as a recruiting sergeant, she works to combat hesitations some women have.
"Some of those barriers are they don't think it's friendly for females. It's not historically a female career that you would choose. They're not sure if the males in the department are going to be receptive to them being there. They're not sure if they're going to be able to juggle their career and their family," Hinton said.
Hinton grew up looking up to her grandmother and aunt who both served as officers in NYPD. Now she hopes to be the role model that inspires another female to join law enforcement.
"It was impactful for me when I was growing up. You have to make some kind of changes. If you want to see some kind of changes. It's not just going to happen," Hinton said.
Less than 13% of officers across the country are females and even fewer, 3%, are in leadership roles, according to the 30x30 Initiative.
Only three other North Carolina agencies have signed the pledge. The Garner, Fayetteville and Charlotte police departments previously joined the initiative. The Chapel Hill Police Department said it is in the process of joining the initiative.
The Fayetteville Police Department joined the initiative a year ago. At 22%, the department has one of the highest percentages of females on its force but that percentage has not increased since the agency joined the 30x30 Initiative.
To reach the 30% goal many local police departments would have to double or triple their percent of female officers.
"Women are 50% of the population we need to be represented in a law enforcement organization. I think we'll build that trust the more that we can have young women see women achieve greatness in law enforcement," said Kym Craven, the executive director of the National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives.
Despite, the big strides many agencies still have to hit the 30% mark, advocates believe it will benefit the entire community.
"We know that women use less force than men and when they do need to use force, it's at a lesser intensity of force than men's. They get really good reception with women victims of crime, and they're really good at problem solving. So we think that it will be transformational for the profession and for communities to have us reached that milestone," Craven said.
Beyond increasing female recruitment, the 30x30 Initiative also aims to ensure that agencies' policies and procedures are free of bias, promote equitable retention and promotion, and ensure an inclusive environment.
Simple things the initiative suggests is that agencies survey female officers on their concerns, make hiring women a priority, make space for nursing and ensure the equipment works for females.
Craven said more funding and specific grants are needed to increase female officers.
For Hinton, she hopes her passion and experience will help DPD meet its goal of doubling its percentage of female officers over the next eight years. She has a personal message for women in the community.
"We need you. We need your unique perspective. We need the way that you look at a problem and solve it because it's different. We don't all look at problems and solve them differently. We need to think outside of the box, we need all those different perspectives," Hinton expressed.