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Female Illinois State Police leaders aim to add more women to force
By Sabrina Franza,
CHICAGO (CBS) – Experts say police departments with more women report fewer use of force violations, less legal trouble that it could change a department's culture.
This Women's History Month, CBS 2's Sabrina Franza spoke with some of the women breaking down gender stereotypes within the Illinois State Police, pushing toward a more inclusive department and as a result, a safer state.
"Most guys, they automatically assume that women, we can't do what they can do, but we absolutely can," said ISP Sgt. Teressa Allen. "Sometimes we can do more than what they can do."
Allen is the first Black woman to ever be promoted in patrol with the ISP.
"For me, it was only three girls, but three girls compared to like 75 men," Allen said of her experience in the academy 16 years ago.
Her graduating class was not much different than Trooper Yesenia Contreras'.
"We are very strong women on the force and we can definitely hold our own," Contreras said.
Contreras became a trooper just a few months ago.
"You're going up against the males in the class and you're wrestling, you're boxing males in the class," she said.
Col. Marget McGreal has 26 years on the force. She's the first female colonel in patrol.
Franza : "How do you do that?"
McGreal : "Well for me, it wasn't too hard because I had fought with my brothers my whole life."
Lt. Col. Rebecca Hooks is the third-highest ranking in the department.
"We're solving problems and we're changing the department in areas that need to be changed," Hooks said.
One goal is bringing the number of female state troopers in the field from 10% to 30% by 2030.
And what would the benefit be for Chicago or the state as a whole?
"Just with regular traffic stops," Hooks said. "I definitely think that when you approach someone with a smile or you say 'Hi my name is - This is why I'm pulling you over.' It almost always changes the whole tone of the traffic stop where you bring a calming effect to the traffic stop."
Franza : "I feel like a woman for so long growing up, you're taught to have your head on a swivel to anticipate a situation before it begins, but you guys can do that professionally and it is a tool that you have to use every single day?"
McGreal : "The people you stop, they also look at the females as they can pull one over on us and we're very smart and we're very good at maybe even hiding out a little bit like 'Oh, OK.' We may not lead on that we know what's going on right now to buy time at the time we are calling for another assit car, calling for backup, and buying that time to make sure that that situation is secure."
Franza : "What you're saying is that it's an advantage to be underestimated in this field?
McGreal : "It was always an advantage. 100%."
As for what the naysayers have to learn from them, their message is this:
"It's not for everyone," Hooks said. "If you're not interested and loving your job, and then being a strong, confident woman, then sit back and watch, because you're gonna see, you're really gonna see what we're capable of."