Equal footing: SPD's Rachel Bruce discusses importance of female representation in law enforcement

Ashlynd Huffman, Stillwater NewsPress, Okla.
·4 min read

Mar. 19—Women are and always have been underrepresented in law enforcement, a career viewed as primarily for men.

Stillwater Patrol Officer Rachel Bruce has some big ideas on how to change that.

"I've been asked for a male officer, or any officer even. I was on night duty when I was pregnant with him, and I would take calls in the lobby," she said. "So I would come to the window and they would ask for an officer and I'm like, 'you did and here I am.' So I don't know, they just don't expect women."

Bruce has been at the Stillwater Police Department for two years, but has been in law enforcement for almost 10 years.

She started at the Cushing Police Department where she worked for eight years and eventually became an investigator.

Now she works an entry level of patrol at SPD, but hopes to work her way back into investigation, something she thinks is important work.

"I think we reach a different group of people, in terms of victims and suspects and just citizens," Bruce said. "I think we have, we can handle things a little bit differently sometimes in certain situations we can be a little bit of a comfort. If it involves a child, we may be more comforting to a child than a guy, not necessarily, but depending on the situation."

Bruce said she and the other six women at SPD have pondered on the idea to hold a "women in policing" day for women and girls to learn about careers in law enforcement.

"I would say, I am really interested in trying to make a difference with our female recruitment efforts," Bruce said. "One of the things I'm trying to do is, me, and several of the other female officers, do like a women in policing day. Specifically to try to recruit women or expose women, to let them know like how things really are."

Bruce said the underrepresentation of women at the Stillwater Police Department isn't because they don't want to hire women, but because women aren't applying, which is why she wants to start the women in policing day.

She thinks there could be several reasons why women don't apply for law enforcement careers.

"Probably because the physical aspects of it, like fear on the part of women that they aren't going to be able to physically do what they need to do, but we're very well trained, and we're never on our own," Bruce said. "You know, like your backups, are right around the corner, so in my eyes, there's not really any reason to be concerned about that."

Bruce recently had a baby, so she said women who are afraid they won't be able to have a family have no reason to worry.

Bruce and her husband both work at SPD so she said family life is completely "doable."

"I've also thought about maybe women have a concern that they won't be able to have a complete or great family life because of the shift work or you know whatever, but like I'm proof, this is my second baby I've had while I've been working in law enforcement," she said. "Kyle, my husband, also works at the PD. So it's totally doable, and there's another officer that has had two babies while she's worked here too, so I think that may be part of it."

Bruce said she believes Women's History Month is important because it is a time for women to celebrate the achievements and how far we have come.

She also said she still feels like there are issues with equality of women in the workplace.

"I think some of those same things, just acceptance. Neither of those departments that I've been to I haven't felt any issues with acceptance within the department like in general we're respected and appreciated," she said.

Overall, Bruce hopes to encourage more women to join the law enforcement community. She said if anyone is contemplating this career, approach her.

"I would just want people to know that, especially your female officers, I mean we all are very approachable," Bruce said. "I would want people to feel like they can come to us if they have an interest in being in law enforcement, especially as a female, I'm really passionate about that, obviously, since I'm doing that women in policing day."