Women's police academy hopes to diversify Twin Cities law enforcement

Recruiting more women into law enforcement careers has been a problem area for departments across the country, but a new Ramsey County program is hoping to change that paradigm and give them an opportunity to see firsthand what protecting and serving actually looks like.

This week's "Women's Academy" consisted of a series of exercises and other opportunities to learn about the field, with participants working through situations like a protest and other common police calls in an attempt to challenge their perceptions of law enforcement.

“I’ve challenged them to dig deep and be uncomfortable this week—to step out of their comfort zone and learn something new,” said Sgt. Suwanna Kirkland, the woman behind the original idea for the five-day academy. It's the program's first year, but it's already succeeding at attracting women of different backgrounds, races, religions and socioeconomic backgrounds. 

She recruited for the academy by visiting beauty salons and neighborhoods that tend to be skeptical of police.

“We want to have a diverse work environment because everybody brings their lived experience, their cultural and social background to the workplace,” said Ramsey County Sheriff Jack Serier.

21-year-old Maisa Ibrahim is living proof, a Muslim woman whose two brothers--all police officers--convinced her to consider a career in the field. She wants to be an inspiration for other Somali Muslim women and show them it's possible to keep both her beliefs and her badge close to her heart.

“I think it would be better for us to [create] change, and for a lot of Muslim girls to see us who wear head scarfs [in positions of authority],” she said.