CHARLOTTE -- The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department has 1,882 sworn officers. Only 270 of those are women, making up about 14 percent of the force.
"On average, nationwide, only 12 to 13 percent of police officers are women," said Kathy Spillar with the National Center for Women and Policing.
Yet studies show female police officers may be better than their male counterparts at defusing violent confrontations before they turn deadly.
"Women bring a very different style of policing to the department," said Spillar. "Women tend to have better communication skills, are better at de-escalating the situation before it gets to the point you're having to use force, and then risk the problem of excessive force."
One study pulled data from the Los Angeles and Cincinnati police departments and found that "male officers are over eight and a half times more likely than their female counterparts to have an allegation of excessive force sustained against them."
Another study of a large police department in the Midwest showed, "It appeared that females might be more adept at avoiding violence or de-escalating potentially violent arrest situations, as others have suggested."
"It really has to do with the individual personality, not whether they're male or female," said law enforcement expert Karl de la Guerra.
He says all officers have strengths and weaknesses, but it's not based on gender.
"Everyone - male or female - receives the exact same training, has the same capabilities to enforce the law, and to be able to handle procedural issues exactly the same," de la Guerra said. "That's the whole purpose of having a unified force, if you will."
Still, Spillar says police departments need more women on the force.
"There's no reason that women shouldn't be half of all police officers in every department in this country," she said. "If you had that, you'd see incidents of excessive force and police brutality drop precipitously."
The National Center for Women and Policing says part of the problem is the way police departments select and hire recruits, relying on physical agility tests. Spillar believes testing should focus more on the applicant's communication and critical thinking skills instead.