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Utah Highway Patrol increasing recruitment efforts for women

Posted at 10:08 PM, Mar 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-09 00:10:40-05

MURRAY, Utah — There are about 30 female troopers with Utah Highway Patrol, and they're hoping more women will join the force.

When you see a trooper on patrol in Utah, there's a growing chance that the trooper will be a woman.

On International Women's Day, FOX 13 News rode along with troopers and spoke to them about how they're trying to get more women on the force.

“Being a woman in law enforcement is amazing, and it's very rewarding,” said UHP Cpl. Tara Wahlberg. “It's been my dream job, you know, since I was a kid.”

Wahlberg is proud to be in law enforcement.

“Being a woman in law enforcement is even bigger because there's just not a lot of us,” she said. “I started out here in Section 4, Salt Lake County, as a road trooper. I loved every minute of it.”

Wahlberg has worked her way to being one of the faces of the department, frequently speaking with the media as well as being a huge part of recruitment.

“Women in law enforcement bring so much to the table because, you know, we are such good communicators," she said.

She recalled a time when that communication was key in a particular traffic stop.

“A few years back, we had the guy driving around Salt Lake and his family had called in that he was driving around and very upset," Wahlberg said. "Being called to that, you're already kind of a little bit nervous because you don't know what's going to go on, but just being able to talk to them, just with that level of communication is major.”

Another proud female trooper that agrees is Lt. Jalaine Hawkes.

“I joined the Utah Highway Patrol about 13 and a half years ago,” she said, adding that she is now proud to serve as the Salt Lake section commander of the UHP.

She remarked Tuesday how she is proud of those who paved the way for her to be in law enforcement and in the military as well.

The UHP hired its first female trooper on May 16, 1977.

“It's busy, it's fast-paced, and there's always challenges around every corner,” Hawkes said, but also emphasized the importance of being a role model in her position. “It really allows young girls to see the world where they have a place at the table and where they have a voice.”

Both troopers are also moms.

“It's important for us to get our story out there if we are mothers and to talk about what the reality looks like,” Hawkes said.

"Many of us have had children while being on the road or in different positions as a trooper," Wahlberg added. "During my time, I had two kids while working here.”

But there still is work to be done, as the agency currently has about 30 female troopers out of about 600. The hope is to attract more soon.

The goal for the UHP is 30 by 30, meaning increasing the number of female officers by 30% by the year 2030.

“Traditionally, the Utah Highway Patrol has not had a lot of women," Hawkes said.

On this International Women’s Day, these troopers hope they can lead the way for new generations of women in law enforcement.

“I want them to believe and actually see it in action that they can be anything and do anything that they want to achieve in this world,” Hawkes said.

“Even thinking about it a little bit. Make that jump because it's just amazing," Wahlberg added.

Anyone interested in becoming a highway patrol trooper can find information on UHP's recruitment page.

Watch the video below to hear the story of another trooper who is also a mother.