ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — At a time when many police departments are struggling to find officers, St. Paul is welcoming a new class of recruits. The department’s Law Enforcement Career Path Academy gives young people from different backgrounds a chance to live out their dream of being an officer. The program also helps fill the ranks with homegrown talent from diverse backgrounds.
At full staff, St. Paul employees 620 officers; right now they’ve got 561.
For the first time, cohorts in the Law Enforcement Career Academy Program are employees of the city of St. Paul. Since 2017, the program was made possible by grants, private contributions and the AmeriCorps program.
“We’ve demonstrated really the effectiveness of this program and why it’s important for us to continue it. The city has made them now community engagement cadets, so they are now city employees,” St. Paul Police Commander John Loretz said.
Loretz says the cohorts have faced challenges in their lives — poverty, a lack of a support system, and minor legal troubles. But LECPA breaks down barriers to give anyone who wants to become a police officer a chance.
“We understand that nobody wants to be judged by the worse thing that they’ve ever done, something that they are not proud of, something that as a juvenile they did,” Loretz said.
Cohorts take law enforcement classes at Century College. After that they are eligible to enter the Police Academy.
Paw Htoo was born in Burma (now Myanmar). Once she graduates from the program, she will be the first Karen woman to wear the uniform.
“When I grew up in Thailand in refugee camp, I didn’t have a good relationship with police, and then when I got here with the community, they helped me settle down and the police provided me with resources,” she said.
Edward Xiong met police officers during his deployment overseas with the Minnesota Red Bulls.
“Working with LECPA just made me real closer to the community here,” he said.
Both Xiong and Htoo will enter the Academy in October with plans to serve their communities with pride.
LECPA members work at events where they learn how St. Paul Police Department serves the community. With no Academy last year because of COVID-19, this year’s class will have at least 14 graduates in its ranks.
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