St. Louis Park police launch new program to encourage recruitment

St. Louis Park Police used to get hundreds of applications for a single opening. Now, that number is less than half that.

So the police department is teaming up with other departments to find new officers to hit the streets.

Even though Sam Lovan and Maurice Smith both pursued careers related to law enforcement, neither imagined they would actually become police officers until now.

"It's amazing. I feel really humbled and blessed to be a part of this program," St. Louis Park Police trainee Sam Lovan said.

"I see it as an absolute no-brainer to take a chance on this. Thankfully it's worked out in my favor," trainee Maurice Smith said.

The pair are part of a program through the St. Louis Park Police Department called Pathway to Policing, where a handful of departments join forces to look for non-traditional potential employees with at least a 2-year degree who want to go into law enforcement.

The departments then pay for training at Hennepin Technical College that would normally take 2 years that's squeezed into just 4 months, while giving the trainees a a salary at the same time.

"It's an opportunity for us to to make sure there are great people who would be great additions to our police department who we'd miss because they wouldn't be able to go back to school on their own and move into this career. So we're getting the best of both worlds. We're getting mature people with life experience who've gotten much of their education out of the way. We're just making sure we're putting the police force out there that is the type of group our citizens want to receive services from," Sgt. Mike Garland said.

St. Louis Park Police say the program gives them a larger pool of potential candidates to hire from, while diversifying their police force at the same time.

"We know our community is changing and our police force is changing, and we want to be ready for that and prepared for it," Sgt Garland said.

Meanwhile, trainees say it gives them the chance of a lifetime to make a difference.

"It's wonderful, and honestly I wouldn't change it for the world. I wouldn't," Smith said.

In addition to St. Louis Park, Bloomington, Eagan, Maplewood, Hastings and Airport Police took part in the joint Pathway To Policing program.

In all, 14 potential officers will wrap up their training in early October and hit the streets a few weeks after that.