IMPD brings women together to train, improve recruitment rates

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Add “President” to the list of titles IMPD’s Deputy Chief Cunningham now holds.

IMPD announced Cunningham is the National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives’ new leader. She’s stepping into her new role with the goal of seeing more women break the brass ceiling.

But she also wants to focus on women who aren’t already in the top ranks, or maybe aren’t even on the force.

First, she says departments have to recruit more women.

“I am a firm believer, if you don’t see it, how can you believe in it?” remarked Cunningham.

Cunningham is IMPD’s top-ranking female officer, but locally and nationally, she’s one of few.

“There are more CEOs of companies with the first name of John, than there are women in supervisory ranks in law enforcement,” said Cunningham. “So the balance is that far off.”

That’s why Cunningham has spent every Tuesday since March showing potential recruits, especially women like Da’onna Smith, that she’s proof they can do what she’s doing.

“Seeing her here and seeing her work out with us and then knowing her rank, I’m like, ‘Wow, that could be me one day,’” said Smith.

Smith first met Cunningham and Sgt. Ida Williams, an IMPD recruiter, in December at a “Behind the Badge” workshop for woman. She also s

The effort is designed to show women like Da’onna smith that there’s room for them in a male-dominated profession.

They’re also proof that the physical fitness test, especially the 21 pushups many find so daunting, can be tackled.

“Starting out, I couldn’t even do one pushup, not one,” said Smith.

Tuesday night during the weekly evening run club, she did 25.

Now Smith is helping encourage other women to cross the finish line and make it to the academy.

Cunningham lights up seeing the women support each other as they cross finish lines and add more sit-ups.

The current recruit class, according to Cunningham, doesn’t have much gender diversity, so she hopes these women make it through  to the academy.

But it’s important to her, because she buys the research that police departments are improved by better reflecting the cities they serve.

Numerous studies show more female officers helps the reporting and handling of certain crimes, especially sexual abuse and domestic violence.

Plus, as the new head of NAWLEE, she knows more women in uniform, means more have a chance to crack law enforcement’s brass ceiling.

“The sky’s the limit and that’s what they need to know,” said Cunningham. “They could be anything they want to be. And if they don’t want to be an executive, that’s fine. You can be a leader at whatever level you’re at.”

The run club meets weekly to help those interested in or applying for IMPD train for and test readiness to pass fitness standards.

The group works at the IMPD Training Academy every Tuesday from 7 to 8.

For more information on IMPD careers, click here.

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