VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The Virginia Beach Police Department is dedicating itself to putting more women on the force.

Every officer has reason for putting on the uniform and wearing a badge. Lindsey Bennington’s reason is simple.

“Oh my gosh I love it,” Bennington said. “I love to be involved in the community.”

Bennington has been on the Virginia Beach force for three years. She currently a school resource officer at Salem High.

“I love being able to reach out to the kids and make a difference in their lives and also show that not all cops are bad,” Bennington added.

The young officer is one of only 116 women in the department. That’s out of more than 700 officers — just 16%.

“It’s being able to walk the walk and talk the talk just like everyone else,” Bennington said. “You know you are underestimated, but you’re also empowered at the same time.”

On Thursday, Chief Paul Neudigate wanted to show the department is committed to creating even more empowerment for women. He signed a pledge to have 30% of the force be made up of women by 2030.

“It feels wonderful,” Neudigate said. “I think you can tell that we have a wonderful organization and it’s only going to become better as we become more diverse.”

Neudigate says there are plenty of advantages to having more women officers.

“Research suggests that female officers use less force, are better able to engage with diverse cultural groups and they are named in fewer lawsuits,” he added.

The next recruiting class begins in Virginia Beach in July and is 34% female. That means soon, more women will join Bennington on the streets.

“This movement is truly a once in a lifetime type of deal and we could just really make a difference through it,” Bennington added.