(CBS) — Police officers across the country are in the middle of a tense climate.
And for female cops, the stress they face on the street, in the department and at home can add up.
CBS 2’s Sandra Torres shows us how officers are easing the pressure.
Officers Samanthia Smith and Eleni Tzelepis are patrolling the streets in the city where they grew up.
A dozen years after joining the force, they face new struggles.
“I feel the biggest challenge is to regain people’s trust in the community,” Tzelepis says.
They say heavy public scrutiny, after high profile police-involved shootings, can impact their response on the job.
A fellow female officer, beaten by a suspect, says she chose not to fire her weapon because she feared backlash.
And they say there are challenges because of their gender.
“A lot of times you don’t get the respect that a man would get on the job, but we do the same thing a man would do,” Smith says.
These circumstances motivated Officer Janice Wilson to recently create the Chicago Association for Women in Law Enforcement.
“We have an organization established here for women to create a voice and a platform for ourselves to be more involved in our careers as well and to support each other more,” she says.
About 22 percent of Chicago police officers are women. Wilson says that’s not enough and they are working to increase the number.
So far, there are 60 members of this group who help each other handle the stress of often being primary caregivers of their children –while risking their lives on the job.
“We are here for support, for mentorship,” Wilson says.
That includes helping women continue to move up the ranks.
A top priority for Wilson is supporting women going through male-dominated training, showing encouragement and making the women feel confident they can be equally successful.
“I definitely think it’s always necessary to bring women together and talk about the different things that we all encounter in the fields and what we can do different to make it better,” Smith says.
The group plans to begin mentoring young girls next year, especially those who want to become officers.