Photo: Facebook

Photo: Facebook

Police Sgt. Marci Graham didn't sugarcoat it for the 56 women who gathered one Saturday this month in Northeast Austin to learn about joining the Austin (TX) Police Department. It can be tough, she said.

Graham knows. In her 17 years on the force, she has raised three children while working for a department where women make up only about 10 percent of the rank and file.

Outreach efforts toward prospective female applicants, like her information session with the women, are part of a series of responses by Austin police to address a recruiting problem that a consulting group's recently released report said is the biggest challenge facing the Austin Police Department, reports the Austin American-Statesman.

Lagging recruitment in recent years has contributed to staffing shortfalls. The lack of new officers for patrol shifts has forced commanders to bring in most detectives and other nonpatrol officers into the shift rotation.

Efforts like the women's information session are also an attempt to diversify the ranks and seek prospects from outside of the traditional pipelines for new officers, such as the military and criminal justice students.

The recruiting effort now also has a larger staff to speed up the process, and police are reaching out to possible applicants through social media.

In recent months, the efforts appeared to have paid off. In November, the police academy will begin training its largest class in recent memory, putting 110 men and women on track to hit the streets next year.