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FARMINGTON — Police officers came together at a conference today to offer support for women in law enforcement and discuss the challenges female officers face.

The Southwest Women in Law Enforcement Conference began today and concludes Thursday at the Farmington Civic Center. The conference drew about 80 women from 18 law enforcement agencies, according to the Farmington Police Department, which hosted the conference.

North Richland Hills Police Department Lt. Carrie White spoke about her experience as one of the only women in the medium-sized Texas department.

When White entered the department in 2001, she was one of three female employees. Now, she said, there are 10 women.

White spoke about the challenge of proving herself to her male colleagues, as well as the shunning she experienced after a female officer complained to her about discrimination in the workplace.

"We do have to work harder to earn respect and earn our position," said Farmington police Sgt. Sierra Tafoya, who organized the conference.

She said Farmington police Chief Steve Hebbe asked her to organize the conference.

Hebbe said women are underrepresented in the police profession. About a dozen, or a little more than 10 percent, of the Farmington Police Department's officers are women, and two women in the police academy will graduate next week, according to police spokeswoman Georgette Allen.

"It reflects on our community," Hebbe said.

Hebbe said women bring a different skill set to the police department than men. He added that female officers are often more likely to try to deescalate a situation than use force.

Hebbe said women interested in joining the police department can contact the training and recruiting center at 505-599-1027. They can also attend the Citizen's Academy or the Women Against Crime Conference or participate in a ride-along with an officer.

During her speech, White said female officers need to support each other. She highlighted four keys to helping women succeed in the workplace: respect, inspire, strengthen and empower.

"We are horrible at supporting one another," White said.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.

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