St. Paul Police academy graduates most diverse class yet

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The St. Paul Police Department's ranks are expanding and evolving. On Thursday, the police academy graduated its most diverse class yet.

There are now two women of color wearing badges and uniforms representing the largest multi-cultural police force in the state's most diverse city. Until Thursday night, that segment of the population was not represented on the force at all.

"I think our academy class really reflects the people we're about to be serving," said Tanisha Morgan, one of Thursday's graduates.

That matters to Morgan, a 27-year-old single mother who said she felt like something was missing in her life, despite having a couple degrees and a job.

"There were a lot of things that weren't clicking with me with social work," she said.

Her own personal challenges in life, along with a chance encounter with a St. Paul police officer, inspired her to do something different.

"I thought maybe I could be better help for victims on the law enforcement side instead of the shelter," Morgan said.

A first-of-its-kind program called the Law Enforcement Career Path Academy made that career change possible. It recruits people of different ethnicities, cultures and professional experiences and covers the cost of the academy to help them overcome other issues.

"Barriers such as young adults raising children, working two or three jobs, no financial ability to afford school," St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell said.

Morgan's daughter watched her gear up for graduation and her new life in law enforcement, and Morgan said she's exactly where she wants to be.

"Seeing her reaction to a bunch of people of color in uniform makes me happy," Morgan said.

After a big night for graduation Thursday, Morgan is getting married Friday. After a few days off, she'll then hit the streets with a veteran officer to start patrol as a rookie officer. The 39 cadets who graduated Thursday will bring the total number of St. Paul officers to 636.