MOORHEAD — The Moorhead Police Department will start a Cadet Internship Program this summer in an effort to improve diversity in the department.
Sgt. Chris Martin said about a dozen applications for the program were received this past week for the program that hopes to end up with the cadets from Fargo-Moorhead colleges joining the force and providing more minority and women officers.
Currently, the department has nine women on its force of 56 , two Native Americans and one Hispanic officer. There are also two Hispanic civilian employees in the department. The department is authorized to have up to 61 officers, but isn't at that full-force figure.
Up to four cadets will be in the initial class participating in the six-month paid internship program. It's been a key goal of Police Chief Shannon Monroe, who rearranged the structure of the management team to pay for the program.
Martin said the cadets could bring different life experiences through their race, gender or language to the department. Because they already live in the area, they may be more likely to join the force when they are done with the program and their studies.
He said they would have a leg up on how the department operates.
"I think they could be more comfortable with us through this program," he said.
Monroe added that through the cadet program, they could also more easily transition onto the force.
The cadets, he said, will work with other officers in community service efforts such as patrolling city parks and trails, making stops at the city library, parking enforcement and lower-level traffic patrol cases.
Martin, who is the liaison to the city's Human Rights Commission, said he hopes to expand the program in the future, but the goal at first is to make sure it's successful. Funding will also continue to be an issue with any expansion, he said.
Applicant interviews for the program are expected to be done in May.
Monroe is also working on another program that could boost minority hiring on the force by having the department "pre-hire" and pay possibly $10 to $12 an hour for an interested candidate that would need to take the eight-week law enforcement skill training at the Alexandria Technical & Community College on the path to becoming a certified officer.
He gave an example of how he was working with a resident of Kurdish descent who wanted to join the force. With all of his family responsibilities, working another job and the need for health insurance, he couldn't afford to complete the training or find the time to devote to it, he said.