Women in Law Enforcement Make Up a Growing Part of Antiterrorism Assistance Program


The State Department’s Antiterrorism Assistance Program (ATA), implemented by the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) and funded by the Counterterrorism Bureau, is committed to helping advance gender equality in the law enforcement ranks of the host nations served by the program.  ATA strives to provide women in partner nations not only with the skills to help meet their country’s law enforcement goals, but also provide training opportunities and resources to help them succeed in their careers. As a result, there is a growing number of women undertaking increasingly significant roles in law enforcement, security, and counterterrorism, both abroad and within the United States.

Despite challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, ATA trained more than 18,000 foreign law enforcement partners in over 40 countries from 2019 to early 2022—more than 1,100 of whom were women.

“Women are deeply connected to, and trusted within, the communities in which they serve,” said Supervisory Special Agent Julie Cabus, deputy assistant secretary and assistant director of the DSS Training Directorate. “Connection and trust are two foundations of effective law enforcement and security operations.”

In several of ATA’s programs, women have been at the center of DSS various successes. In 2019, two Gendarmerie officers in the Central African Republic became the first women to serve on an ATA-trained and equipped Special Program for Embassy Augmentation and Response (SPEAR) team that directly supports the U.S. Embassy in Bangui. Embassy officials report that the women are serving as nationwide role models for other women in law enforcement.

In Jordan, the ATA-sponsored National Center for Security and Crisis Management (Jordan’s national emergency call center) has led to male and female police officers working side-by-side, with the female officers filling critical roles in the center’s operation.  ATA also works with women in other law enforcement units throughout Jordan.

In Kenya, ATA is expanding support for the nation’s all-female SWAT unit, organized in 2019, whose commander praises years of ATA courses in helping her develop the leadership abilities to build a successful unit from the ground up.

ATA’s success in supporting women in law enforcement overseas also extends to the United States where women are in key ATA management positions in DSS.

“When I started, I was the only woman in my unit,” said Donna Porter, the monitoring, evaluation support, and sustainment coordinator at ATA headquarters in the Washington, D.C., metro area. “Then we hired an amazing management analyst, and our current boss is the first woman to be an Assessment and Monitoring Unit chief.  There are now women working in every unit across ATA headquarters.”

Dr. Crystal Navies, ATA instructional systems specialist branch chief and retired military police officer, said that she often faces biases but “knowledge and confidence are key.” Kimberly Brown, ATA Kenya program manager and retired DSS supervisory special agent, noted that as a woman in a traditionally male-dominated field, “you must prove your capabilities, but once you demonstrate you’re competent, you gain the respect of your colleagues.”

Navies and Brown both said that there has been a steady increase in the number of women in the ATA program. In 2018, women made up fewer than 5 percent of ATA participants but by 2021, women comprised 7.4 percent.

“The value that women bring to law enforcement globally cannot be overstated,” said DAS Cabus.  “ATA continues to promote diversity and human rights within its programs and with partner nations.”

Cabus–badge blurred
July 2022 eight female Kenyan CRT members higher quality photo
Kenyan CRT Female and Male officers train together Feb 2023
May 2019 First Two Female Central African Republic SPEAR Team Members copy
Picture from 2022 DSS Instagram Female Police Officers on Rifle range Tajikistain

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