SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah) Training, Mentoring, Teaching and Supporting. Those are the goals of a group of female officers, deputies and troopers who make up Utah Women in Law Enforcement.
Salt Lake City Police Lieutenant Robin Heiden says in a sentence. "You have women who are small part of law enforcement who are coming together to support each other." And it was that desire to provide support that inspired a handful of officers, sergeants and lieutenants to get together in 2009 and create Utah Women in Law Enforcement.
Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera says "What we do is try to enhance their careers so they will become good leaders and what we actually need in law enforcement - good, qualified, confident leaders to make those tough decisions." Sheriff Rivera is one of the founding members. "We started as group of 10 - now we have 160 law enforcement officers." And she says along with the growth in numbers - Utah Women in Law Enforcement or UWLE has helped her and others like Lt. Heiden grow in their careers. "For me it gave me mentors to look up to and to talk to and make me realize I can advance and I can promote." "I was a new Sergeant - when Utah Women in Law Enforcement was formed. Now I am a Lieutenant."
The law enforcement group does this by holding quarterly workshops - like this one at Weber State University this summer. "It helps having a group of support - the support is huge when you are trying to get promoted in law enforcement ."
Utah Women in Law Enforcement offers firearm training sessions, promotional training conferences and leadership training. Rivera says "They teach you from the very beginning. What are the things you need to be doing to gain these qualities - instead of just trying to sell that you have these qualities. Substance behind becoming a police leader."
Sergeant Melody Gray with Unified Police says women make up just a small portion of law enforcement - in fact the latest numbers indicate about 13 percent. She says early in her career the approach to promotion - at times - was not very friendly. "When I started in law enforcement it almost seemed to be this competition. Maybe only one of us gets to succeed. Fighting with each other almost."
She believes Utah Women in Law Enforcement and similar groups across the nation have changed that attitude. "This is different it is so different its about coming together and supporting one another and helping one another to be successful."
UWLE is also about providing the younger officers with access to veterans and their experience. Lt. Heiden says "I was able to go to them and ask what can you do to help me? Can you give me some advice? What path should I take to try to advance in my career?"
But Sheriff Rivera says it's never been and still isn't about giving officers something they had not earned. "We just want to make sure that we in law enforcement are keeping the high standards and helping people meet those standards."
UWLE started with officers in the valley - from places like Salt Lake City, Unified Police and West Valley City.
It now includes officers from a few other counties. And Sgt. Gray says members of the group hope that someday soon they'll be able to reach out to officers across the state. "Our goal is hopefully to have numerous satellites getting Southern Utah and all different places and chapters across the state involved so we can truly become Utah Women in Law Enforcement."
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