HURRICANE – Last spring, upon the recommendation of people she knew, Katina Young applied for a police officer position with the Hurricane City Police Department. Her friends said the city needed a female officer. She considered herself very qualified because she has what she calls the “triple threat.” She holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, is a Police Academy graduate and is a certified Emergency Medical Technician. She received several awards during her training and was criminal justice club president in college.
Instead of landing an interview like she thought she would, she received a rejection letter nearly three months after she applied. Two other women, one of whom served with the Cedar City Police for a while, applied recently and received the same response, Young said, and that she felt slighted because male applicants she went to the academy with heard back right away after they applied.
Hurricane City Police Department Public Information Officer Sergeant Brandon Buell’s first question when addressing Young’s situation was: “Is she even eligible?”
He said potential police officers must go through the academy and pass written and physical fitness exams, among other requirements. The background packet is very detailed, Buell said, and if any applicants are missing information, they are ruled ineligible.
During the last application process, two females applied and one did not pass the background requirements and the other dropped out of the testing, Buell said. Some male applicants did not pass the background check as well, he said.
“Our chief is not one who is biased,” Buell said of current Hurricane City Police Chief Lynn Excell.
It doesn’t matter if the applicants are male or female because Hurricane is an equal opportunity city, he said. There are some great female officers working in Washington County, Buell said, and the Hurricane Police Department would welcome a female officer. But, he said, the Police Department would not hire a female just to have one on the force.
“We will hire the best candidate for the job,” Buell said.
Eight of the Police Department’s 29 employees are female, Buell said, including three female animal control officers. Two of its three crossing guards are female.
“It is not an accurate statement that we won’t hire a female,” he said. “As an officer, you need to be able to control the situation, make arrests, and defend yourself. Are those things both genders can do? Absolutely.”
In general, there are not as many females who want to be officers, Buell said. Washington County Sheriff Cory Pulsipher and Washington City Police Chief Jim Keith concurred.
The Washington County Sheriff’s Department has 15-18 certified female law enforcement officers. Even one of Pulsipher’s chief deputies is female. Washington City has no female police officers but one female animal control officer.
“Women have a huge role in law enforcement,” Pulsipher said. “They bring a different perspective.”
Both Pulsipher and Keith said they welcome female officers.
Young said female officers are recommended in rape and domestic violence cases and, she said, children respond better to women. Also, women are extremely desirable when having to search another woman, she said.
Buell, Pulsipher and Keith agreed with Young, to a point.
Keith said that Washington City gets very few female applicants but he would love to have female officers to help with female victims and suspects, not because he thinks they would do a better job, he would just like that option available.
Pulsipher said the county has a large number of female inmates and female officers aid tremendously in servicing this population, especially when it comes to searches.
“We try not to do cross-gender searches,” the sheriff said.
Pulsipher said women, for the most part, have an easier time communicating with children and female rape victims. For instance, having to answer to a “big, bald guy” like him can be intimidating for women and children in those circumstances. Sometimes it can get awkward when rape victims have to talk about such sensitive subjects with male officers, he said. Their goal is to make victims feel as comfortable as possible and having a female officer available certainly helps.
Like Buell, Keith said his department would not give preference to female candidates, noting they would have to meet the exact same standards as the men.
Pulsipher said he would encourage any female interested in becoming a female officer to look into the Dixie State University program, headed by Ivins/Santa Clara Police Chief Bob Flowers.
As for Young, after her rejection from the Hurricane City Police Department, she landed a job at a private probation company as a probation agent, something which she said she enjoys, and is putting her degree to use.
Nonetheless, Young said something needs to change within the Hurricane City Police Department and is hoping a new mayor will change things.
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