In Fairfax County Schools system’s parking garage, area high school girls gather around county police officer Jessica Kane’s motorcycle as she explains how her Motors Squad works.
Kane also demonstrats how to make traffic stops... all part of many classes the Virginia county police department is offering in a week-long program called "Future Women Leaders in Law Enforcement."
Getting girls interested in a profession that has been dominated by men is the driving force behind the program.
“I like them to grasp full understanding of what it is to be a police officer. What is the job that we do,” said Kane.
Women make up only 13 percent of the nation's police force according to the U.S. Department of Justice. But recent news of two women passing grueling U.S. Army Ranger training for the first time has helped put the 'power' behind women's empowerment
The idea: there is no job a man can do that women can't do just as well, and this county police force based near Washington D.C. wants more women in uniform.
Thirty-four students took part in the program, which is designed to recruit young women of diverse backgrounds.
Ted Arnn, deputy chief of police for investigations, says female officers make up just 13 percent of the county’s 1,300-member police force.
“We have a long way to go. We can do a lot better. So we want to make sure that high schoolers see law enforcement as a good career opportunity for them particularly here in their own neighborhood,” he said.
The girls learn firsthand the ins and outs of day-to-day police work, such as working on patrol, defense tactics and physical training, firearms safety, and crime scene investigations. They also discover the importance of leadership skills.
Program coordinator Jane Burns, who has been in law enforcement for 19 years, said that the course showed the participants that police work is not all about physical strength.
“The program shows the participants that there is no limitation in what they can do in law enforcement. It is important for these young ladies to know that women can be just as good as the male officers and there is nothing that holds them back,” she said.
Toward the end of the program, most participants say their perspective about police has changed.
Joy Jongwe, 17, said, “First, I wasn’t sure about cops. I was like ewhhh--. But seeing that I want to be one makes me very appreciative of what they do and how they risk their lives.”
Julia Devine, who is also 17 years of age, said, “This week has really showed me my ability is in just that I can really do anything even though I am a girl, I am still strong. I’ve learned that you do have to work hard for it. But yes, I think I can be a police officer.”
The participants also said that they realized being in law enforcement could be dangerous at times, “but it is worth it, and that is all that matters.”