Program recruits nontraditional police officers

The cities of Bloomington and St. Louis Park, along with four other agencies, are participating in a program designed to remove barriers for nontraditional candidates who are interested in pursuing a career in law enforcement but may not have the means to pay for, or availability to attend, a two-year program.

More than 380 candidates, culled from a pool of 482 applicants, were interviewed in a joint hiring process between participating agencies. Pathways to Policing allowed candidates to participate in one application and recruitment process in consideration for hiring by multiple agencies.

“As Bloomington becomes more diverse, we needed to develop a new approach to hiring police officers that would help us keep pace with a changing community,” Bloomington Police Chief Jeff Potts said. “The new pro-gram will help us meet this need and ensure that our police force is more reflective of all of the people we serve.”

All candidates who met minimum qualifications were offered a first-round interview with a panel that included a police officer, human resources professional and community member. Panelists were trained to identify candidates open to a law enforcement career and who had unique qualities to bring to the profession, such as living or working with multicultural populations or other experience providing service to customers with a wide variety of backgrounds.

Modeled after a program offered by the Minnesota State Patrol, Pathways to Policing offers an accelerated training program through Hennepin Technical College for candidates who have at least an associate’s degree in any discipline, allowing them to complete training in four months rather than two years. Upon successful completion of the training program and passing the Peace Officers Standards and Training exam, candidates are sworn in as police officers.

Twelve students are currently in the training class, from the participating agencies of Bloomington (3), St. Louis Park (2), Eagan (2), Metropolitan Airports Commission (2), Maplewood (2) and Hastings (1).

Candidates are paid wages and benefits to attend the four-month training program, which has been underway since June 12 and continues through Oct. 4.

“The Pathways to Policing program has provided us the opportunity to hire two outstanding nontraditional candidates who will bring valuable life experiences to our department,” said St. Louis Park Police Chief Michael Harcey. “The program has allowed our candidates to overcome a common barrier for nontraditional candidates by assisting them in completing their police officer licensing requirements while employed with our department.”