Fayetteville's Police Department is taking a big step to accommodate new parents on staff. The department is installing nursing pods at its stations where employees can pump breast milk.
Police say the project started almost two years ago at the station on Hay Street. The department repurposed a room for nursing parents so they could express milk for newborns. In honor if its goals to promote wellness and recruit more women, the department decided to create more pumping locations at all three of its facilities as part of the effort.
"Public safety is 24/7, which means we have to think about our families. We have to think about our accommodations when we come off from family medical leave. And one issue is: how do you take care of and feed your children once you come back?" said Chief Gina Hawkins.
Two of the nursing areas comprise of pods that were paid for by a state Bureau of Justice grant. Installing the pods cost about $30,000. Chief Hawkins says stressing over how to safely pump breast milk as a young working mother hits close to home.
"Even when I was a young mother, that was one of the thoughts that I had years and years ago that I had to address. And there was really no accommodations for that. I was in the little nasty bathroom, and that's what I had."
Fayetteville police say about a dozen employees with children and expecting parents stand to benefit from the new nursing areas within the next year. The department says it is also exploring options for expanding access to their nursing areas for other city employees outside of the police.
Hawkins says she hopes opening up these nursing pods will make employees feel welcome and supported, especially in the wake of COVID and the baby formula crisis.
"Being able to have options of how do you take care of family is important," Hawkins said. "Hopefully this should show anyone who comes into this profession that this is important to us."