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One way suburban Twin Cities police chiefs are trying to bring diversity to their departments

St. Louis Park Police Chief Michael Harcey: “The idea was to reach nontraditional candidates and really work on hiring for diversity so our workforce would reflect our community.”

Most Twin Cities suburban police departments have long been overwhelmingly white. But a group of police chiefs from several suburbs are hoping they’ve found a way to change that. 

Pathways to Policing is a new accelerated training program aimed at bringing more diversity to communities through the metro area — largely by eliminating some of the barriers regularly confronted by candidates of color interested in law enforcement.

“The idea was to reach nontraditional candidates and really work on hiring for diversity so our workforce would reflect our community,” said St. Louis Park Police Chief Michael Harcey, who developed the initiative in collaboration with his counterpart in Bloomington, Jeff Potts. 

One of the main barriers to some applicants of color, say suburban police officials, are the narrowly tailored requirements that traditional candidates go through to become police officers in Minnesota. 

That process generally requires candidates to acquire associate degrees in criminal justice or law enforcement; complete the hands-on skills training program; and pass the Minnesota Board of Police Officer Standards and Training, or the POST. “Then agencies have the right to hire you as a police officer,” Harcey said.   

Pathways to Policing participants still have to go through a competitive process to be selected for the program by the participating departments — Bloomington, St. Louis Park, Eagan, the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC), Hastings and Maplewood— which involve multiple interviews, physical and psychological evaluation, a background check and rigorous four-month training. But there are some key differences with the traditional process.

For example, the new program accepts candidates with any kind of associate degrees, not just criminal justice or law enforcement degrees. The participating cities also hire candidates before they take the POST test, then provide the participants both the classroom and practical training they need to become licensed police officers. 

Efforts to create the four-month training program began a year ago, when the St. Louis Park and Bloomington police departments noticed the lack of qualified diverse applicants, even as the population of those from racial and ethnic minority communities continues to grow in the suburbs.

The first class of the Pathways to Policing program was launched in June with 12 prospective police officers who meet at Brooklyn Park’s Hennepin Technical College 40 hours a week.

The funding to support the officers-in-training comes from six police departments — Bloomington, St. Louis Park, Eagan, the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC), Hastings and Maplewood — and each department has sent participants to the training program. Bloomington has three participants in the current class; St. Louis Park, Eagan, Maplewood and the MAC have two each; Hastings has one.

When the program ends in October, the new graduates will take the POST licensing exam and go to their respective departments, where they’ll then receive further in-house training and work as field training officers — with the goal of eventually get promoted to become police officers.

Roggenae Michael, who was formerly a community service officer for the Bloomington Police Department, has long wanted to be a police officer, and enrolled in a law enforcement class at Metro State University as a way to eventually reach that goal. 

But that traditional route, Michael said, would have taken her longer and cost more money compared to the Pathways to Policing program. “With that program,” she said of her initial plan to pursue a career in law enforcement through Metro State University, “you’re not guaranteed a job even if you complete the skills program. It could be months or even years before you get a job offer.”

“But with this [Pathways to Policing] program, you’re guaranteed a job at the end of the line as long as you successfully complete the testing and your class work.”

Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by Mac Riddel on 07/12/2017 - 01:17 pm.

    So being educated is the barrier to overcome? I don’t know about my fellow citizens, but having officers with less education on our streets feels like a big downgrade. Don’t provide an accelerated program, but instead promote the existing educational opportunities. Those that really are determined to become officers will find a way to make it work. And being GUARANTEED a job? That can lead to lesser qualified people. What other training program guarantees a job after graduation?

    I applaud these cities for trying, but a guaranteed & accelerated program is not the way to make our streets safer. Hopefully I am proven wrong as only time will tell how these non-traditional officers pan out.

  2. Submitted by Debora Hanssen on 07/16/2017 - 11:52 am.

    Missing details not provided in this story…

    I think the Pathways to Policing program is a terrific, new alternative route for candidates (students) to complete the same Minnesota POST mandated requirements that has been offered to any/all students seeking a law enforcement degree or certificate in the traditional college setting. I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t advise the author, and anyone reading this article, that there are a few relevant details missing from this story; I know this because I am the person who spent months preparing the program schedule and hiring instructors, and am also the person who is currently managing it.

    First, the article identifies this program as a training program; that is incorrect. This program is an educational program delivered by a Minnesota POST Board certified college (Hennepin Technical College). The educational program provides both the academic AND hands on course curriculum consisting of over 400 learning objectives adopted, approved and required by the Minnesota POST Board. Second, none of these learning objectives or course curriculum is reduced, eliminated or excluded. The accelerated component of this program to which the author refers derives from the general education coursework each candidate (student) previously completed in the college degree he/she was awarded, which is required criteria for entrance into this program. Lastly, each candidate (student) selected to participate in the Pathways program must successfully complete no less than 680 hours (17 weeks x 40 hours per week) of coursework with a grade of “C” or higher for eligibility to take the Minnesota POST exam before he/she becomes a licensed Minnesota Peace Officer.

    I realize that it is not the reporter’s responsibility to know all the minutiae that goes into this type of program. I do feel, however, that by not correctly reporting the details that go into a program like this it may confuse or mislead those who read this article (see previous comment dated July 12) or those interested in applying for future Pathways to Policing programs.

    Thank you for your time.

    • Submitted by Ibrahim Hirsi on 07/19/2017 - 10:30 am.

      Story has all the necessary information



      Thanks for the note — I always appreciate feedback. Let me address a few of the points you brought up. 


      First, all the individuals I spoke with for the story described the Pathways to Policing initiative as a training program. Also, the official release from Bloomington and St. Louis Park police departments used “training” at least four times to describe the program.


      Second, the story does mention that participants of the program have to go through a competitive process involving multiple interviews, physical and psychological evaluation, a background check and rigorous four-month training. The story also mentions that participants are required to take further in-house training and must pass the POST test in order to become police officers.


      I understand that there are some specific details you may have wished to see reflected in the piece. But it’s important to note that this is a news article, not a promotional brochure, where you’d have, for example, the exact number of hours participants need to complete the program or the grade they’d need to earn in order to take the POST exam.



      Ibrahim Hirsi



  3. Submitted by Abulla Cham on 01/06/2018 - 01:37 am.

    Reality is missing

    The process requirement to be a police officer for minorities neither a lack of a law enforcement, a criminal justice degrees nor hands-on skill training. Myself have these above 2 degrees; completed skills training and I am “POST Eligible” by POST board. I have been looking for a law enforcement job for over a year; and I met with many qualified minority candidates who have been searching for over 1-3 years. I know some minorities who gave up looking for a law enforcement jobs, and some who exited from the career field. I applied for both St. Louis Park, and Bloomington Police Departments and gotten negative results. Some Minorities who completed Minnesota POST mandated requirements still couldn’t get hired. As result, more minorities hesitate to earn law enforcement degree because they see ones with a law enforcement degree not hired. I think decision makers play a major role in hiring and recruiting processes.
    I believe that short cut is not pathways to bring more diversity to communities through the metro area. The barrier confronting candidates people of color is “DECISION MAKING” to recruit or hire candidates in the process. Since I started searching, I documented a lot of barriers that kept and keep minorities from entering the law enforcement career field.

    Please do not hesitate to post your input…..I believe this is very important topic that need to be discussed.

    May God bless all who serve.

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