Women’s History Month: LAAPOA Board Member Ruth Delgado on Celebrating and Supporting Women in Law Enforcement

Ruth Avalos-DelgadoMarch is designated as Women’s History Month, a time when our nation comes together to commemorate and celebrate the vital contributions that women have made to enrich America’s history, culture and society. “This month is a great way to reflect and honor all of the accomplishments of women. It is especially important for women to encourage and support other women,” LAAPOA Board member Ruth Delgado says.

Throughout this month, the law enforcement community recognizes those throughout history who have paved the way for women in the profession today, such as Lola Baldwin, the nation’s first sworn female police officer (1908); Georgia Ann Robinson, the nation’s first known Black policewoman (1916); Josephine Serrano, the LAPD’s first Latina policewoman (1946); and Penny Harrington, the first female police chief of a major city (1985). “The law enforcement field is historically a male-dominated one, so it is especially important to spotlight the women who work hard and trailblaze, making women in law enforcement, especially in leadership ranks, a normal occurrence,” Delgado says.

Delgado, a detective with the LAXPD, is one of the many women in LAAPOA and in the Department who are carrying the torch of those who came before them and inspiring the next generation of female officers.

Delgado became interested in law enforcement at a young age, as her grandfather was a police officer in Mexico. (“Although he did have very traditional views on gender roles, he always taught me to be strong, independent and persistent,” she shares.) She says a detective who spoke at her school solidified that interest. “I immediately knew I wanted to be a detective. I wanted the challenge of figuring out the details of how a crime was committed and helping victims get justice,” she recalls.

Delgado says that she chose to pursue a career with the LAXPD because she noticed that there were many women on the force who served in various ranks and in specialized units. It was important for her to work with an agency that acknowledged and promoted women. “At times, it feels like we have to work twice as hard to prove ourselves and show that we are as capable of doing the job [as a man is], but I have always felt supported and respected by my male counterparts,” she says. “I also surround myself with strong women in law enforcement and have mentors who have led the way to be successful.” This support has helped Delgado succeed in the field. Her proudest accomplishments include being the first LAXPD detective on the Los Angeles Regional Human Trafficking Task Force and being a part of the first-ever LAXPD Women’s Running Team for the annual Baker to Vegas race.

Delgado is following in the footsteps of those who helped her by uplifting her female colleagues and inspiring women who are thinking about joining the profession. “It is important for women to be represented in law enforcement because that is what paves the way for more opportunities and for normalizing women in the profession,” she explains. “Women supporting other women is the best way to welcome more women and to ensure that we are all successful. As in my case, when someone wants to join a police department and they see female leaders, it makes it that much more desirable to join.”

The LAAPOA Women’s Conference is one way that Delgado and LAAPOA are ensuring that women are supported both on and off the job. The annual event focuses on various topics specific to challenges faced by women in law enforcement and provides the training and tools necessary to overcome them and be successful. It also includes a mentorship component that pairs women together to provide a network of support year-round. Last year’s conference centered on the theme “Lift As We Climb Up,” which was all about motivating, inspiring and training attendees to confidently advocate for themselves and others in their careers, particularly as they progress into leadership roles. In addition, LAAPOA supports outside training and conferences that are specifically geared toward the upward mobility of women.

With approximately 13% of women accounting for full-time officer positions, and an even smaller percentage in command positions, women in law enforcement need support now more than ever. In addition, recruiting more women into the profession is paramount to creating a public safety force that is balanced and more reflective of communities served across the country. What’s more, women bring skill sets that could vastly improve the profession, with studies showing that they are less likely to use excessive force, are adept at handling sexual assaults and are highly skilled communicators.

For women who are considering a career in law enforcement, Delgado encourages them to talk to women from various police departments, go on ride-alongs and ask a lot of questions. “One of the most important questions to ask is, how does being a woman affect you on a daily basis at work?” she advises. “I also think that, as women, we are very resilient and we are natural-born problem solvers, so the daily challenges of law enforcement are what make women so good at being police officers!”

However, she points out that law enforcement is a challenging career choice, regardless of gender. “You will be challenged physically, emotionally and mentally. But you will also have tremendous rewards — you bond with your partners in a way that not many other jobs allow you to do,” she says. “You join the ‘thin blue line’ family, which means that you share an understanding with anyone who wears the badge that you will do anything in your power to stand next to them against all evil. You may get yelled at, spit at or even punched, but more often than not, you will see the person you rescued from harm and you will feel proud that every day you go out and do your part to make this world a better place.”