Kicking Crime to the Curb
Women at UHDPD are Leading the Charge in Public Safety
By Hayden Bergman
More than a decade ago, Beyoncé asked a question, then answered it: Who run the world? Girls.
In 2023, the data is in, and it’s clear that girls (or women, rather) run public safety, as research conducted by 30x30, a coalition of police leaders, researchers, and professional organizations, shows that women officers use less force and less excessive force. They are also named in fewer complaints and lawsuits, are perceived by communities as being more honest and compassionate, and overall ensure better outcomes for crime victims, especially in sexual assault cases. If that weren’t enough, women officers tend to make fewer discretionary arrests.
More women, more safe, in other words. According to personnel data, the University of Houston-Downtown Police Department (UHDPD) is well above the national average of 12% female sworn officers and 3% female officer leadership, as 52% of UHDPD officers are women, along with 40% of the command staff.
Sergeant Stacey Berryman, a 53-year-old mother and grandmother who often works night shifts at UHDPD, said that, for her, law enforcement is about “creating relationships, helping others, and showing them that they’re important.” When you do that, said Berryman, people are more likely to “listen, relate, and comply.” Detective Deionne Jackson started with UHDPD as a Security Officer and has since moved up the ranks to Police Officer, then to her current role as Detective. For her, policing isn’t just about the increased safety she can provide to the UHD community. It’s also about how providing that safety makes her feel. “I have always found joy in helping others, and that is why I serve.”
For her part, Lieutenant Vanessa Gay, a UHD alumna with 28 years of law enforcement experience, says there are many barriers to overcome as a woman in the profession. The long shifts (including weekends and holidays) pose a particularly difficult challenge, especially when scheduling around childcare, school functions, and sports activities. Despite these challenges, she (and many women like her) pursued law enforcement because, she says ,“Making a difference is fulfilling. I am proud to serve and protect any community, but [UHD] is special and dear to my heart.”
UHD’s urban, downtown campus, such as it is, presents a difficult environment for law enforcement, making an understanding and capable police department not a luxury, but an absolute necessity. That's why, UHDPD Chief Casey Davis, Ph.D., said, “Based on research, we are poised to increase the safety of the University.” He went on to note that the high number of women on the UHD police force “reduces the overall liability of the police department from being exposed to use of force incidents, complaints, and lawsuits.” In turn, this makes UHD a safer, more secure place for faculty, students, staff, and visitors.
The statistics are clear: The unequal distribution of law enforcement positions by sex undermines public safety throughout the nation. At UHD, thanks to the continued professionalism and efforts of women like Lieutenant Vanessa Gay, Detective Deionne Jackson, and Sergeant Stacey Berryman, along with the many other women who work at UHDPD, our campus community is a safer, more inviting place to work, study, and pursue one’s goals.
For a full list of the outstanding women currently employed as UHDPD personnel, see below.
Command Staff Members - Leadership
Assistant Chief Carla Jackson
Lieutenant Vanessa Gay
Lieutenant Imelda Rodriguez
Sergeant Stacey Berryman
Detective Deionne Jackson
Officer Lisa Barajas
Officer Julia Gonzalez
Officer Chanta Mitchell
Officer Bibiana Reyna
Officer Jasmine Vasquez
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.
U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.