For nearly 30 years, Annemarie Juba has patrolled the streets of Harrisburg.
She joined the force in 1991 after graduating from the 50th Police Academy at HACC.
“It was pretty scary at first – being tiny, being female,” she recalled.
As she became comfortable in her new role, Juba felt out of place in the department she served.
“When I started in ’91, it was rough. You just didn’t feel like you belonged and they really didn’t want you there,” she said.
According to a report by the U.S. Department of Justice, when Juba started, the national percentage of female officers in local police departments was around 8 percent.
In 2007, when Denelle Owen graduated from the academy, that number had only grown to 12 percent.
After graduating, she joined the East Pennsboro Township Police Department and became the second woman ever to wear their uniform. Now a sergeant, she also met uncertainty.
“There was a generational gap, so the way it used to be was that the males did not believe females belonged in law enforcement,” Owen said.
In the last decade, the number of female officers has not grown significantly. It stays at 13 percent nationally. But the environment for female officers has changed.
“The millennial generation of males is more accepting of females,” Juba said.
“Today it is a whole lot better. A lot of departments are very welcoming to females and actively seeking females,” she said.
Now, both women say the disconnect is with the community. Reports of nationwide police brutality and excessive use of force has changed the community view of police officers.
Growing the number of women on the force could be a solution.
“The climate of the country is changing. They want to see a kinder, gentler police force,” Owen said.
“Most of the time, when people call 911, they want you to solve their problem. And arresting someone or beating someone up isn’t always the solution,” Juba said.
Anyone interested in a career in law enforcement should reach out to their local police department to see if it offers an internship or ride-a-long program.