Monday, December 11

Port St. Lucie police seek to get more women on force

Tuesday marks National Police Women’s Day, and there’s an effort in Port St. Lucie to get more women on the force.

When Port St. Lucie Police Sgt. Sheila LaGrega joined the department 24 years ago, times were different.

“When I started, I worked midnights and it was probably six months before anyone would talk to me,” LaGrega said.

Things have changed, and LaGrega is now involved in recruiting.

“I think the driving factor is to mirror the community that we work in,” she said.

Recently, the agency signed a “30-for-30” pledge.

The goal is to have women make up 30% of the force by 2030.

“We’re never going to lower our standards and we want our officers, male and female, to know they are very special to us,” Police Chief Richard Del Toro said.

The chief said women made up half of those eligible to be promoted on the last sergeant’s exam.

“I’m very proud of that,” Del Toro said. “It’s not because they’re female. It’s because they’re the best.”

Statistics show that Port St. Lucie and other local law enforcement agencies already exceed the national average when it comes to women wearing the badge.

Nationwide, 12% of sworn officers are women.

In Port St. Lucie, that number is 18% with a 2.5 percentage point bump just this year.

At the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office, the figure is 17.5%.

The St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office has a mark just a shade above 19%.

In Martin County, it’s 14.5%.

La Grega said women sometimes bring different skill sets to a case.

“Some people prefer a female sexual assaults, domestics, when you talk to children, they just feel more comfortable,” she said.

Officer Lilian Santana just joined the force in July and her advice to other potential female recruits is to just do it.

“I’m a wife and a mom. It’s very hard, but you can definitely do it,” Santana said. “You can put on the uniform and solve those problems. You can be that person.”

Officer Yamilet Hernandez said it’s not hard to overcome the perceptions of some who might not see you as a police officer.

“Honestly, with experience and training, I know what I’m capable of and I just get the job done,” Hernandez said.

It’s a job that LaGrega wouldn’t trade for anything.

“I would never not be a police officer,” she said.

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