Police chief gives Redlands update, discusses women in policing

By Toni Momberger, special to Community Forward Redlands

Police chief gives Redlands update, discusses women in policing
Police Chief Rachel Tolber discusses women in policing at AAUW brunch April 13 in Redlands. (Photo: Community Forward Redlands)

REDLANDS, Calif. – Women can make us safer, Redlands Police Chief Rachel Tolber said in an April 13 presentation hosted by AAUW.

Tolber told the 101 men and women in attendance at the University of Redlands that decades of research indicates women often produce better public safety outcomes – “in many of the areas we care about most” – yet women account for less than 13% of sworn officers nationwide.

Women in policing

Among the findings, women use force less often than men, and they tend to use less excessive force. They conduct fewer searches during traffic stops, but they’re more likely to find contraband. They’re perceived as more honest. They’re sued less. They fire their weapons less in the line of duty. And data show better outcomes for crime victims, especially of sexual assault.

She emphasized that the current movement to improve safety by increasing the number of women in law enforcement is not about tokenism, favoritism, stereotypes or removing men from policing. Rather, it’s about recognizing that women play a critical role in improving outcomes and improving the profession.

Women represent 3% of the nation’s police leadership ranks. Tolber is the first female police chief in Redlands’ history. 

Her journey into policing began in 1997 when she was a student at the University of Redlands fighting a campus parking ticket. That experience inspired her to apply for an internship with the Redlands Police Department, which hired her within a year.

Chief Tolber speaks before AAWU members and guests about her career at RPD. (Photo: Community Forward Redlands.)

She pointed from the 2009 mark on her career timeline.

“I was the first female sergeant in the organization and the first the rest of the way,” she said.

“I definitely feel the support, and I don’t feel like there are any more challenges than a male counterpart would have dealing with policing in general.”

She describes the RPD, with 93 officers and “quite a few vacancies,” as a mid-size police department.

Today’s policing in Redlands

In 2014, after the fatal police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown that summer in Ferguson, Missouri, then-President Barack Obama created the Task Force on 21st Century Policing to make recommendations on broad police reform.

In Redlands, this translates to adherence to six basic tenets that focus on the department’s relationship with the community.

“Community policing is a philosophy, and it has a long history at the RPD,” Tolber said. “It allows us to work as a partnership with our community to identify areas of concern and solve problems.”

The benefits she listed included increased safety, decreased crime, collaborative approaches to homelessness, increased communication to the public and a reduction in the use of force.

Having “co-produced public safety” makes officers’ jobs easier and less stressful, which translates directly to public benefit, she said.

Recent changes in Redlands

In November, a department restructure created two new commander positions for a total of four, each with a different area of focus.

Current community concerns center on retail theft and homeless encampments.

In response to this, last month, the department launched a community engagement team. Tolber said this team will help the department take more time with community members as officers go from call to call.

“We are definitely understaffed,” she said.

The department is down about 12 officer positions right now, but the number is fluid because of retirements, resignations, technology and strategic restructuring.

Tolber said they are constantly recruiting and that she is seeing good things.

“Since January I’ve noticed our recruitments are larger groups, more qualified and (candidates are) not getting lost in the process.”

She also said the advances in DNA technology from when she worked on homicide cases to now have had a big impact. They’ve added an in-house digital forensics expert and have increased resources by fostering a partnership with the sheriff’s department.

“It’s amazing to work in this community,” she said. “And we’re hiring.”


Tolber has been with the Redlands Police Department for 26 years, including on patrol, as a detective and in crisis negotiation. She has multiple academic degrees, including in psychology; sociology; criminology, law and society; and applied criminology.

In 2019 she completed the National Institute of Justice’s LEADS Scholars Program (LEADS stands for Law Enforcement Advancing Data and Science.)

She is a founding member of the American Society of Evidence Based Policing and has been an executive fellow at the Police Foundation (National Policing Institute).

She currently serves on San Bernardino County’s Sexual Assault Services Board, and is a member of Redlands Sunrise Rotary.

Areas where she is published include re-entry issues, restorative justice and women in policing.

In her introduction of Tolber, Ellen Timothy, Redlands resident and AAUW participant, explained how AAUW takes pride when women rise into leadership positions.

"That is really the fruits of our labor,” said Timothy. “This is what we’ve been working for.”

AAUW was founded in 1881 to empower women toward equity through education, advocacy and research. The Redlands branch was founded in 1947 and offers a monthly presentation in addition to running multiple projects supporting the organization’s mission.

Toni Momberger is the executive editor of Follow Our Courts and past president of AAUW Redlands Branch. She can be reached at tcm@followourcourts.com

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