TOPSHAM — The Topsham Police Department plans to expand its women’s locker room now that more women are joining the force.

Voters approved a 2019-20 budget in May that includes $20,000 for the expansion project. Topsham Police Chief Christopher Lewis said an existing workroom in the police station will be used to create a new space, so construction will involve knocking out a wall and adding lockers.

Interim Town Manager Derek Scrapchansky said the locker room has room for five officers, was at full capacity when town officials began looking at the expansion project and still had position openings. The department now has three full-time female officers and a female reserve officer. With the expansion, there should be room for three or four more, he said.

Scrapchansky said he doesn’t know how many women were with the police department when the new public safety building opened in the late 2000s.

“Obviously a lot fewer because of the way it was (designed),” he said.

The town requested bids previously which came in at $47,000 — much higher than what the town had budgeted. Thursday, Selectmen will consider awarding the job to Lajoie Brothers Inc. for $15,698, which should take about four weeks and be wrapped up by mid-March. That will leave enough money to buy additional lockers took Scrapchansky said.

Lewis said he doesn’t know why the women’s locker room wasn’t built bigger. He estimates the men’s locker is at least 1 1/2 times the size.

“I guess the biggest thing is the town is willing to make it right and move forward with this so we can expand and make it more comfortable with the female officers,” he said.

Women make up 46% of the national workforce; however only 13% of the law enforcement workforce, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, and most of that is based in large, urban police departments.

In Topsham, the need for more space for female officers is a sign of the times, Lewis said. A town of 8,800 people, Topsham has 16 full-time officers, three of whom are women.

“We’ve been extremely lucky in order to have as many female officers as we do,” Lewis said. “I certainly am proud of the fact that we have that many female officers and I hope that is a trend that continues.”

It’s newest female officer, 22-year-old Courtney Everett, was formerly an EMT living in Denver, Colorado, and who grew up in Washington State. She graduated in November with 61 other police officers from the Maine Criminal Justice Academy.

She moved to Topsham because that’s where her girlfriend works. Tuesday she admitted she was surprised to find how few women work in law enforcement in Maine.

While she had hoped to go to a larger city, Topsham is decent sized and busy enough with calls.

Topsham’s number of female law enforcement officers is on par with the Brunswick Police Department, which also has four full-time female officers including the animal control officer. According to Brunswick Police Cmdr. Mark Waltz, there is room for many more women in the women’s locker room.

Space hasn’t been an issue for the city of Bath, where the early 1980s-era building only has to house one full-time female officer and the animal control officer.

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