St. Paul police will use a new half-million-dollar grant to continue and expand community outreach programs.
The $500,0000, two-year grant from the Otto Bremer Trust was awarded to the St. Paul Police Foundation, a nonprofit that supports the department’s work. Half was released last week to the foundation, which has agreed to raise a matching $250,000 in order to receive the other half.
“In my almost 27 years at the St. Paul Police Department, this is the most significant grant for community outreach,” said Assistant Chief Todd Axtell, who helped secure the funding. “Anybody that’s been following national events understands that building trust between the community and police has to be our top priority.”
The department has to apply for the money from the foundation for specific projects, which include programs with the St. Paul Public Schools, St. Paul Parks and Recreation and YWCA of St. Paul, among others.
“We are pleased to provide funding for the critical and important work the Foundation is doing in partnership with the St. Paul Police Department,” Otto Bremer Trust co-CEO and trustee Daniel C. Reardon said in a written statement.
Axtell said he and Reardon began discussing the grant about six months ago. The department has “always struggled” to find enough money to fund outreach programs, Axtell said, while balancing other needs within its budget.
The grant will help the department achieve key goals in outreach to youth from childhood through the early 20s, Axtell said, including: drawing young people into law enforcement work with an emphasis on diversifying St. Paul police’s rank and file, breaking down barriers between officers and youth of color, and helping officers see youth through “a new lens.”
The money will help save the department’s YWCA Junior Police Academy, which was headed toward an uncertain future this year — its 10th anniversary — because of a lack of money. Since its inception, the program has served about 500 youths, 95 percent of them people of color.
It will also help fund things as simple as new basketballs for regular games between St. Paul police and Somali youth and activities such as hockey, fishing and soccer.
“This is all about keeping kids out of the criminal justice system,” Axtell said.