AUSTIN, Texas – Women in the Texas Department of Public Safety have described it as a “glass ceiling.”
Decorated careers, competitive resumes and seemingly strong interviews before DPS promotional boards, only to then have a male counterpart selected for the position instead of them.
A months-long review of DPS employment data by KSAT Investigates found gender inequality issues within the supervisory ranks of the statewide law enforcement agency.
While nearly 20% of probationary DPS troopers are female, that figure plummets at the rank of sergeant to less than 6.5%, DPS records released this fall show.
That figure shrinks even more, to 5.7%, when accounting only for sergeants who were promoted instead of being temporarily appointed by their respective divisions.
These so-called “staff promotions” are not considered a permanent change in rank.
The number of females at the rank of lieutenant is even more anemic, at under 5%, the data shows.
Multiple DPS divisions, including Commercial Vehicle Enforcement, Training Operations and the Texas Rangers do not have a single female at the rank of lieutenant, the data shows.
The agency’s only saving grace, as far as the data is concerned, is the rank of captain, which as of this fall was around 12% female.
The rank of DPS major was just under 8% female as of this fall, the data shows.
“The reality is it’s a profession that was built by and for men, and it’s a little bit slow to change and it’s not intentional, but the status quo just doesn’t support the needs of women,” said Maureen McGough, Chief of Strategic Initiatives for the Policing Project at New York University’s School of Law.
The project’s 30×30 Initiative, which McGough co-founded, aims to have police recruit classes across the country made up of 30% women by the year 2030.
“The theory of representative democracy states that until an underrepresented group gets to 30%, they can’t actually impact the culture for the benefit of that group. So that’s sort of the sweet spot in terms of optimal representation,” said McGough.
Women in policing
McGough points to a growing body of scientific evidence that illustrates the value of women police officers.
The research shows women officers:
Use less force and excessive force
Are named in civilian complaints and lawsuits less often than male officers
Are perceived as more trustworthy and compassionate by their communities
Associated with better outcomes for crime victims, particularly in sexual assault cases
Fire their service weapons less often
“They actually make fewer searches during traffic stops but are more likely to find contraband when they do,” said McGough.
She said departments need better analysis in place when determining what it takes to adequately work for an agency.
“We think we are losing really good officers, that they’re not being hired or perhaps they’re not being promoted because of the types of assessments that agencies use,” said McGough.
DPS pushes back
Department of Public Safety officials declined to make anyone available for an interview for this story.
In a lengthy written statement, DPS Press Secretary Ericka Miller pointed out that roughly 11% of female commissioned personnel in DPS hold supervisory positions.
“This includes an Assistant Chief, three majors, 10 captains and several others. The department has made it clear that women hold a place of value within our department and we encourage any female interested in promoting to the level of supervisor to apply for that position as it becomes available,” wrote Miller.
Miller shared with KSAT two press releases, both originally sent out more than two years ago, detailing the promotion of women within the ranks of DPS.
One of them provides biographical information on the first two women promoted to the rank of captain in the Texas Rangers.
The second announces the August 2020 promotion of Katie Conley to the position of Assistant Chief of the DPS Human Resources Operations Division.
“Across the nation, law enforcement recruiting has been challenging not only in the recruitment of females, but of all qualified candidates. This is why the department has increased the number of female recruiters across the state. DPS has also increased its recruitment efforts on social media with paid advertisements, is making more trips to recruit candidates from other states and is holding mass testing events to make it easier for interested people to apply. We continue to place special emphasis on candidates who have historically been underrepresented, that includes minorities, females and others. Our hope is that these increased efforts will help fill vacancies and needs within the department with the most qualified and best suited candidates that will protect and serve the people of Texas,” wrote Miller.