By John Lauritsen

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (WCCO) — As cities grow and change, so do their demographics.

And some police departments are trying to change along with them.

Just over a year ago, Bloomington, St. Louis Park and other agencies joined forces with Hennepin Technical College to create “Pathways to Policing.”

The idea is to get more people of color in law enforcement as a way to help both cops and communities.

“It’s a lot of fun but I have to admit I got a little car sick yesterday,” said Abigail Smith.

For Abigail Smith, it’s driver’s education all over again. But this time the skills she’s learning behind the wheel, are part of her training to become a police officer.

“I saw this opportunity and I jumped on it. It’s a chance to get more average people from the community involved in law enforcement,” said Abigail, a Bloomington police cadet.

Abigail’s story is unique. She’s been a case worker most of her adult life. But a new program called “Pathways to Policing” is allowing her to fulfill a life-long dream.

“Our communities are becoming more diverse, but the pool of candidates we had to draw from was not more diverse. We had to try something new,” said Chief Jeff Potts, Bloomington Police.

Bloomington is one of six agencies involved in the program. It’s designed to help people who always wanted to become an officer, but couldn’t leave their current job and go back to school.

So instead, the police departments pay people to train to become full-time officers. Nearly 500 people have applied.

“That’s the exciting thing. It’s the number of candidates and the diversity we saw in those candidates,” said Potts.

From accountants to carpenters, Abigail is one of 12 students currently in training. Hennepin Technical College is accelerating the learning curve, allowing candidates to graduate in four months as opposed to two years. So this fall, Abigail will officially trade in her desk job for her dream job.

“I need a more active way to help people. I’m not a sit behind the desk person. Yes, I want to help people at the end of the day,” said Abigail.

Candidates are required to have at least a two-year degree when they apply.

A training bill passed at the State Capitol this spring will help departments off-set the training costs going forward.


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