The Saint Paul Police Foundation today announced it has received a three-year, $250,000 grant from the Otto Bremer Trust to support the Saint Paul Police Department’s Step Forward campaign, a comprehensive strategy to strengthen police and community relations and raise awareness of law enforcement career opportunities within diverse communities in the city.
Step Forward utilizes cross-sector partnerships between law enforcement, local businesses, post-secondary institutions and social services organizations to strengthen police connections with city residents. The program expands beyond traditional Community Policing strategies, which are typically defined by geographic “hot spots” and statistical crime data analysis, to include outreach, youth services and recreational events that create opportunities for police officers and city residents to interact in an informal and non-adversarial setting.
“Over the past two years we’ve worked to create a dedicated Community Engagement Unit to advance our commitment to diversify the department’s workforce. This grant from Otto Bremer Trust will enable the Saint Paul Police Department, through its Foundation, to further our efforts to diversify law enforcement personnel and increase our community outreach efforts,” said Saint Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell.
Currently there are nine sworn police officers, six civilians and 35 AmeriCorps members supporting the department’s community engagement unit. The unit’s leader, Senior Commander John Lozoya, is a 25-year veteran in law enforcement and has been active in educating immigrant and refugee communities about the legal system. The unit’s civilian staff includes four dedicated community engagement specialists who support the African American, East and West African, Latino and Southeast Asian communities.
Increasing law enforcement diversity is a priority of the department as well as of Mayor Melvin Carter, who has pledged to build on Saint Paul’s tradition of strong policing.
“Our Police Department’s Step Forward campaign is a vital part of protecting the sacred trust between our officers and our community,” said Carter. “Support from the Otto Bremer Trust will expand opportunities for our officers to engage with residents across Saint Paul, and will help ensure our police workforce reflects the rich diversity of our city.”
The grant will also help support the department’s Law Enforcement Career Path Academy, a cross sector partnership between Community Action Partnership, Century College and AmeriCorps to provide resources for those seeking a career in law enforcement.
As part of its community outreach to raise awareness about careers in law enforcement, the department also hosts Safe Summer Nights, weekly community picnics to interact with residents; Police Activities League, a series of sporting activities and skills camps to connect youth with law enforcement; Junior Academies, which provide a basic overview of the role of the police officer and a preview of careers in law enforcement; and Explorers, which provides youth and young adults aged 14-21 with hands-on experiences.
“We are impressed with the success the Foundation has had in partnership with the Saint Paul Police Department,” said Daniel C. Reardon, co-CEO and Trustee, Otto Bremer Trust. “This grant will build on the excellent work the community engagement unit has demonstrated and further help develop and establish partnerships with diverse communities in the city of Saint Paul.”
In 2016 the Otto Bremer Trust made a $500,000 investment in the Saint Paul Police Foundation for outreach programs and partnerships.