Portland Police Bureau, other agencies hold first-of-its-kind recruiting event for women

Public safety agencies hold First Responder Fair to encourage women to pursue public safety careers.

Photo: Genevieve Reaume

"Girl cops are awesome." That’s the message on Southeast 148th Avenue in Portland. It’s printed on a billboard. Below it are casual photos of women who work for the Portland Police Bureau (PPB).

"We’ve proven for many, many years and decades that we can do this work,” Lt. Tina Jones, a public information officer with PPB said. “We’re good at it, and we provide value."

Despite the proof Jones is referring to, women are highly underrepresented in public safety fields. In an attempt to change that, the bureau, along with many other agencies, held a First Responder Fair on Saturday.

“We had a whole bunch of different partners in our dispatch, fire, FBI, Oregon State Troopers, Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, both patrol and corrections, and Portland Police Bureau,” Jones said.

It’s the first event of its kind.

"I don’t ever see, like, very many female officers like on duty," Terrie Kowalski, an 18-year-old teen interested in firefighting said at the fair.

"I love science. I’m in a chemistry class. I’m taking AP chem next year. So, I really just like all sides of science and adding fire to it is just the perfect combo," Miranda Allen, another teen interested in working for a fire department, said.

The goal of the fair was to have all the agencies collaboratively show women and girls they can work in these fields.

"It was just very eye-opening for me,” 34-year-old Sheena Moore, said.

Moore heard about the event from a friend who is an officer.

“I know an officer and he actually said, ‘Hey have you ever thought about being a police officer?’ I said, ‘Actually, no, I’ve never thought of that.’”

His suggestion might soon be the very reason her life changes.

“I’m definitely thinking about applying,” Moore said. “I’m actually leaning towards that.”

According to PPB, just 16% of officers with the bureau are women. Portland Fire and Rescue says 30% of its officers are women.

At the fair, girls and women got the chance to talk one-on-one with women in positions they’re aspiring to be, women similar to Officer Kristi Butcher.

“I’m the first Portland Police Canine Handler that’s a female,” Butcher said. “The unit’s been around since 1983, and I became a handler in 2014.”

Butcher agrees getting more women in public safety fields is necessary.

“It’s because I see great women, you know, that I work with, and they’re all capable of so many great things.” Butcher said.

An 18-year-old, Jenna Dority, agrees, saying it’s "Just as easy for us to do it as it is for them,” referring to men.

Dority wasn’t sure she was interested in public safety, but the fair showed her it may be a good option.

The Portland Police Bureau says many agencies are facing a big staffing shortage, and the bureau says women could be the answer.

"A lot of us are looking at severe staffing shortages, and one of the ways we feel like we can really do better is to recruit more women," Jones said.

PPB says the agencies are working to plan more events similar to this.

If you’re interested in learning more about joining PPB, click here.

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