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Retaining female police officers key

By Ed Brock

It's not a beachside resort in the Caribbean, but the Hampton Inn in Morrow is making a fair substitute for members of the International Association of Women Police.

"It's warmer than Edmonton (Canada)," said Jim McLean, the IAWP's first male board member.

Uncertainty over the war in Iraq, the possibility of terrorism and economic reasons led IAWP President Terrie Swann to switch the location of this year's board meeting from Trinidad off the coast of Venezuela to Morrow.

Jo Ann Acree, director the Morrow Emergency 911 Center, is sponsoring the meeting. She said many members had to use up a lot of money and leave time to attend the last conference in Canberra, Australia in October.

"There would not have been enough (members at this meeting) to make a quorum," Acree said.

The October conference was great fun, said Australian Jill Wood, an inspector with the Melbourne Victoria Police Force. Wood joined the IAWP at that conference and, since this is her first trip to the United States, she's not disappointed by the change in destination.

"It's one or the other. I'm just happy to get the trip," Wood said.

Being a member of the IAWP has shown Wood that she has a lot in common with her fellow female police officers from around the world.

"We find that most forces have a low percentage of women officers, and we'd like to raise those percentages," Wood said, adding that the hardest part is not recruiting new female officers but retaining them. "We have to make sure that when a woman joins we offer them maternity leave and part-time work."

It also helps that the Melbourne police commissioner is a woman.

"Since she's been in place she's made a world of difference and she's a great role model for women to join the force," Wood said.

Wood, who is suffering from sinus problems, said she hasn't seen much of the area yet but she hopes to over the weekend. She also said she was not concerned about coming to America during a time of war and increased security against terrorism.

"You can't let it rule your life. I think most Australians are more worried about (severe acute respiratory syndrome)," Wood said, referring to the mysterious pneumonia-like disease spreading around the world from China and Hong Kong.

On Friday the board members' biggest concern was the establishment of a 501C3 charitable foundation that will benefit the organizations training, education and sponsorship programs. The meetings Saturday and Sunday will consist primarily of reports from coordinators of future conferences.

"We're very fortunate that for the first time that I've been on the board we have conferences scheduled for more than the next two years," said Swann, who has been on the IAWP board since 1991 and lives in Pheonix, Ariz.

The conferences from 2003 through 2006 will be held in San Francisco, Boston, Leeds, England and Saskatoon, Canada respectively. There have been offers from Beijing and Melbourne and the Northern Territories in Australia for the 2007 and 2008 conferences.

But not to be outdone by other locations, Morrow Mayor Jim Millirons made a proclamation in honor of the IAWP.

The IAWP was formed in 1915 and has more than 2,500 members in 52 countries, Acree said.