Remarks by U.S. Ambassador Hans Klemm, Celebrating Women in Law Enforcement

Police Academy Bucharest

Deputy Rector Busuioc,
Deputy Inspector General Petre,
Distinguished guests from the Ministry of Internal Affairs,
Friends and partners at the “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” Police Academy,
Colleagues, Distinguished women of the police, ministry and Gendarmerie,

I am honored to be here with you today to celebrate the exceptional achievements of our female colleagues working across the spectrum of Romanian law enforcement agencies. This is an opportunity for us to acknowledge the role and key contributions of female officers, managers and trainers, and to mark the outstanding cooperation between our two countries in the fight against the most diverse and challenging forms of crime and terrorism.

March is a special time of the year both in Romania and the United States as we join in paying tribute to generations of women who made invaluable contributions to the betterment and safety of our society. Throughout our history, women have struggled to gain rights, representation and equal opportunities not just for themselves, but also for other less privileged members of our communities. Our presence here today is a celebration of their victories, a reflection on their endeavors and hard work and a recognition of the role of women in bringing about positive change in Romania, in the United States and throughout the world.

Law enforcement work is often perceived by society at large, and even by some of its own prominent representatives, as a male-oriented professional activity. Many stereotypes of the aggressive and authoritarian male officer who forcefully puts things back in order are portrayed in the media and could discourage young female graduates from even considering policing as a potential career option. But the law enforcement field is not essentially about physical force or punitive work; it is first and foremost a reflection of the communities it serves and protects with courage, dedication and tolerance. Our communities are diverse and multicultural, therefore a modern law enforcement system must be equally open to mirror the variety and richness of our societies today. Professionalism, integrity, bravery and perseverance are not male or female qualities, but attributes to be commended in all those individuals committed to the calling of public service. Improved diversity and inclusion are key factors in the success of any police force aiming to maintain a motivated, effective and properly integrated team. Historically and globally, women have been outnumbered in many professional settings and law enforcement unfortunately has been no exception. Although female officers now account for larger percentages of sworn positions in police departments across the United States, the first women were hired in the second half of the 19th century – so just less than 150 years ago. And then they only started as as jail matrons in prisons for female prisoners. It took another 100 years for women to gain leadership positions. And in 1985, so really just 30 years ago, Penny Harrington of the Portland Oregon Police Department became the first female police chief of a major city in America. Currently in the United States, women make up 13 percent of police forces, with the FBI leading the way with 20 percent.

Several factors should be taken into account as we further explore the functions, responsibilities and challenges of women in law enforcement. As I look around the room today, I see a good representation of the various roles that each of you play in the recruitment, training, promotion and retention of current and future generations of police officers, gendarmes, firefighters or border guards.

Your courageous, dedicated and selfless work is in itself the best recruitment strategy for young females exploring various career opportunities. Hiring practices and selection processes with a focus on greater diversity represent a key step, but it is your visibility as role models in your communities that played the most important part. Let your professionalism, your dedication and your bravery be known and be seen by society and your peers and I urge you to become advocates of careers in law enforcement to remove all misconceptions about perceived lack of equal access to positions within your profession. Studies in the United States have shown that many young female students do not even consider policing as a career choice upon graduation simply because in many communities women never have the opportunity to see female officers at work. Although tremendous progress has been made to offer access to varied and challenging roles within their organizations, the proportion of women in senior ranks and management positions is still unjustifiably low.

Today’s event is an opportunity for all of us to reflect on our efforts to provide an open professional development, training and recognition to our female colleagues. Today we see women represented at almost all levels – managing police units, coordinating investigations, leading media teams, directing traffic, designing regional cooperation strategies or participating in international peacekeeping missions. Recent statistics indicate that almost 14 per cent of the Romanian Police are female, a ratio that exceeds the recommended EU average range of 8 to 12 percent of the workforce. The Police Academy trains a significant cadre of future officers every year, and I am told that women today represent approximately 30 percent of the cadets. Throughout the years, the U.S. Embassy has worked closely with your law enforcement agencies to promote women in policing and to recognize their valuable contributions. In 2010 for example, we helped the Romanian Police establish the first session on leadership for women in law enforcement. In addition to training initiatives, the United States Embassy also recognized in 2014, through a special Woman of Courage Award, Viorica Marincaş – the first female officer in the history of the Romanian National Police assigned to manage a county inspectorate in Maramureş County.

The victories and struggles of women in law enforcement today must include a special moment dedicated to our bilateral cooperation as reflected in the work of three outstanding representatives of the Romanian Gendarmerie. Empowering female officers is not only about institutional approaches or formal strategies; it is also about sharing stories of remarkable achievements in very challenging environments. The NATO-led Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan benefited from a significant Romanian contribution in 2015. Many officers were deployed throughout the year to serve in various capacities as experts and advisors. Three of them as you mentioned Deputy Rector, were female representatives of the Romanian Gendarmerie – Captain Rodica Mazilu, Lieutenant Colonel Nicoleta Primăvăruș and Major Monica Rusen. They volunteered for this year-long assistance mission and provided leadership, as well as financial and psychological guidance for their peers in the Afghan National Police. We strongly applaud their dedication, courage and commitment to the highest professional standards as they inspire other women, such as yourselves, in law enforcement to overcome obstacles and seek out new career challenges.

As the Unites States looks forward to continuing our close cooperation with all Romanian law enforcement agencies, I would like to conclude by expressing my sincere appreciation to all those gathered here today for your perseverance in responding to threats to the security of our countries and the safety of our communities. The United States is very proud of this exceptional partnership with the men and women – especially women – working within Romanian law enforcement.

[In Romanian]: La final, cele mai bune urări tuturor doamnelor cu ocazia Mărțișorului. La mulți ani și mult succes în activitatea dumneavoastră!

Thank you for your patience and attention.