HELENA- The Helena Police Department recently welcomed its seventh female police officer to the force.
“Over the last 25 years, the most that we’ve had is 3. Generally, it’s one or two,” says Helena Assistant Chief Steve Hagen. “Right now we are sitting at seven. That’s out of 52, so we’re roughly at 15%.”
Helena P.D. has more than doubled the number of women on its force in the last year. For one of them – Officer Monica Kuehn – the decision to enter into law enforcement was a quick one made after taking her first ride-along.
“Helena was my first ride-along,” says Officer Kuehn. “I went with Sgt. Skidmore and Officer Kuster and I fell in love with it. I was like ‘this is it.’ I don’t know – it was just something that bit me: You’re going to be a cop, so just go do it.”
Officer Kuehn says it’s a job that never has two days that are the same. “I come into it not knowing what I’m going to get into and that’s what keeps me getting up in the morning. I love it.”
For Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Bertie Lau it’s the open road.
“I think I like the freedom, I like not being confined to one particular area of a town or county,” says Trooper Lau. “I like being able to travel around.”
Montana Highway Patrol Colonel Tom Butler says they have had a fairly static number of women on the force in the past 25 years.
“I think we’ve had on average somewhere in that 12-15 range for the last 25 years,” says Col. Butler. “There were a couple years when we were below ten and a couple years above 20. “
But he says across Montana there’s been a noticeable uptick in females turning to law enforcement.
“Law enforcement agencies as a whole across Montana are seeing more and more women that are in the agencies. So from 20 years ago, it’s not as surprising as it may have been,” says Col. Butler.
-Melissa Jensen reporting for MTN News