TUSTIN, Calif. (KABC) -- The Orange County Sheriff's Department wants to fill 300 positions in the next year and hopes more women apply.
Despite the county's top cop being a woman -- Sheriff Sandra Hutchens -- women make up only 11 percent of the sworn workforce in the department.
"It's not just we need big hulking guys, we do need them, but we also need people with various talents because we can use all of it," said Deputy Laurel Yoshimoto, a wife and mother who joined the department more than three years ago.
The 33-year-old admits it was challenging getting through the academy with a young son, but she says it was doable because she was determined.
"I was actually a high school teacher teaching Spanish, and one of my students was molested, and I got angry about it and said I was going to go protect people," said Yoshimoto, who's also the captain of the women's competitive shooting team.
Why so few women are in law enforcement is still not clear, but Deputy Nicole Vargas says women may feel intimidated going into a profession that's predominantly male. The 29-year-old single mother joined the department out of high school.
Vargas says she was nervous when she entered the academy but soon learned her fellow recruits were very supportive.
Vargas, who also plays with her colleagues on the charity football team called the OC All Stars, says she started off as a sheriff's special officer, then went through the deputy academy. She worked in the intake release center, booking inmates, and plans to move to patrol duties in November.
The sheriff's department says it's facing a shortage of female deputies in the Women's Jail and the intake release center.
"We are hoping to recruit for several different sworn and professional positions, including mechanics, cooks, people for our O.C. crime lab, the coroner's office, research and development," said Lt. Jeff Hallock, a spokesman with the O.C. Sheriff's Department.
Yoshimoto, who also works in recruiting, says women often standout for their problem solving and communication skills.
"Instead of having to escalate and go into a fight and end up having someone arrested for a crime, we can de-escalate and actually get them some help," said Yoshimoto.
To find out if you have what it takes, the O.C. Sheriff's Department is holding a career fair Saturday at the Sheriff's Regional Training Academy in Tustin from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit www.ocsd.org.
"Don't give up, and if this is something you really want, it can happen for you," said Vargas.
Women encouraged to apply for OC Sheriff's Department jobs
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