Nearly 800 people have recently applied for jobs with the St. Paul Police Department, making it the largest number of applicants for any recruitment class since the department started keeping records in the 1990s.

Twenty-three percent of those applying are members of minority groups.

"The amount and diversity of applicants reinforces what we have known all along — that the St. Paul Police Department is second to none," Mayor Chris Coleman said in a prepared statement.

The surge follows the department's first-ever job fair last November.

Police and fire departments across the state are preparing for possible early retirements this spring because of pension changes. By May, about 105 St. Paul officers, or 17 percent of the total active officers, will be eligible for retirement.

In 2011, the last year the city recruited applicants, the department had 705 candidates. In 2009, there were 339 applicants.

Nicole Norfleet