ST PAUL, Minn. — This month, 55 women and men graduated from St. Paul's police academy after completing four months of physical tests and professional training to join the department.
Of the 55, 13 were brought in through SPPD's Law Enforcement Career Path Academy — a diversity program for young adults who are interested in joining the force, but face financial barriers to attend college and find employment.
"We've been very intentional about telling people that they have a role to play within St. Paul Police Department," said Jon Loretz, commander with SPPD.
Loretz says the goal is to help diversify the police force.
"We know that there's individuals that would like to get a role in law enforcement and maybe from communities that traditionally don't have good relationships with law enforcement," he said.
The 55 recruits began the academy last October. Half of the graduating class is made up of people traditionally underrepresented in law enforcement.
St. Paul PD says that between the new graduates, 20 are bilingual and two speak three languages.
"Language skills that we are always in need of, but just also cultural skills that you know, so we can be better deliver our services," he said.
Not counting new recruits, SPPD says the department is short around 100 officers. They're hoping to continue filling those gaps to better serve the community.
"Bring those skills, bring your energy to us," he said." Now is an incredible time to bring that energy and if you want to reform law enforcement or you want to change law enforcement, you do that from the inside."
Chief of Police Todd Axtell also delivered his final graduation address before he steps down later this year.
The department is actively recruiting more officers.
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