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'Pathways to Policing' adds diversity to Twin Cities law enforcement

Six Twin Cities police departments are thinking outside the box when it comes to recruits.

SAINT LOUIS PARK, Minn. -- Six Twin Cities police departments are thinking outside the box when it comes to recruits. They're putting extra attention on hiring a police force that matches the demographics of the community it represents, and they're removing barriers that could keep some non-traditional officers from joining the force.

The new program is called "Pathways to Policing." The Bloomington and Saint Louis Park police chiefs say they first began working on a new recruitment program in early 2016 after struggling to find enough recruits of diverse backgrounds.

"A police department that reflects its community demographic will get more trust from its community," said Bloomington Police Chief Jeff Potts.

He and Saint Louis Park Police Chief Mike Harcey modeled it after a program offered by the Minnesota State Patrol. Four more metro police agencies joined the program, including Eagan, Metropolitan Airports Commission, Maplewood and Hastings.

It came to fruition last month when 12 new recruits began the intensive training program offered through "Pathways to Policing" at Hennepin Technical College.

The program condenses two years of training into four months of long training days. The police trainees end the program in October, and those who complete the program successfully will join the police force, said Chief Harcey.

Police trainees are paid wages and benefits during the training period.

"For myself, I couldn't afford it at the time so for this program to pay for the schooling -- pay us while we're going. We have a guaranteed job as long as we complete everything successfully -- it's a phenomenal program," said Saint Louis Park Police trainee Maurice Lashawn Smith, Jr.

Candidates must have a minimum of a two-year associate of arts degree and many are transitioning from another line of work.

Chief Potts says 67 percent of the new recruits through "Pathways to Policing" are racially diverse.

The Minnesota State Legislature approved funding for this and future "Pathways to Policing" programs. Chief Potts says so far a date has not yet been set for the next round of "Pathways to Policing."

For more information on the program, click here.

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