One frigid night, north of St. Paul, Kamaludin Ali studied the darkened windows of a suburban strip mall.

"When everybody goes home at night, I come back here, looking for broken windows," he said. It was his third week as a Ramsey County deputy sheriff, working the graveyard shift, patrolling Vadnais Heights.

Deputy Ali scanned the unbroken glass of the shop windows carefully, then continued his patrol; weaving through parking lots, past tidy neighborhoods, looping around the ice rink. All quiet in Vadnais Heights.

"I'm from someplace that didn't have a lot of opportunities, torn apart by civil war," he said. "Me being here is a dream come true."

His radio crackled with news of distant troubles. A driver running away from a vehicle he'd plowed into a ditch. Rowdy teens at a big box store. Someone in a mental health crisis, missing in the cold night, possibly with a knife. None of it in the city of 12,000 that was his responsibility until 6 a.m.

Ali learned English from the Disney Channel. He memorized the roads of Ramsey County by delivering Door Dash on his days off. On a good night, most of Vadnais Heights won't even know he's out there.

It's the bad nights Ali's there for. When tires blow out in potholes. When the storefront glass is smashed. When arguments escalate.

He and another deputy performed CPR on an unresponsive woman for 17 minutes one night until the ambulance reached them. He was there when a carjacker hurled a puppy out the window of a moving car to distract pursuit. The puppy survived. The woman did not.

Ali comes from a community with little trust in law enforcement. He wants to earn that trust.

Back in East Grand Forks, Minn., he watched other Somali immigrants stay with partners who hurt them because they were too afraid to ask the police for help.

"It's understandable. We're from a place where we don't trust cops and governments," he said. "When we come here, it's the same mentality.'"

Ali thought he might be able to do something about that.

"Showing my face might give them some kind of relief," he said. A family in crisis, he said, might see him and think: "'OK, this guy knows what I'm talking about. Maybe he can understand my pain.'"

Tension between the police and the policed extends far beyond immigrant communities. Americans talk about each other more than we talk to each other about crime, justice or public safety. Very little of what we say is kind.

"There's a lot of misunderstandings between the communities and cops," he said. "We're more than this uniform. We're human beings."

He continues his patrol, pointing out local landmarks like a proud tour guide. The fire station. The bank. All quiet at Chipotle.

"It's my city," he said. "I work in Vadnais Heights, so I love it."

In college, trying to choose a major, Ali signed up for a community ride-along with the Grand Forks, N.D., police.

Riding on patrol, trying to prevent bad things from happening to good people made him feel hopeful. Maybe he could serve his new country. Maybe his neighbors would trust a uniform if he were the one wearing it.

"It was everything. The feeling, the hope. Showing up for people," he said. "I was like, 'Yeah. I want this.' "

Born in Mogadishu 28 years ago; Kamaludin Ali was a kid with limitless potential in a place of limited opportunity.

When he was 15 or 16, he left Somalia and traveled on his own to the U.S. embassy in Kenya, and began the five-year wait for a visa to America. While he waited, he trained as a tailor, because work — even if it wasn't his dream job — gave him a sense of purpose.

In his free time, he watched American television shows such as "Hannah Montana," waiting impatiently through the laugh track for the next words of English.

He reached America, finally, and settled in East Grand Forks, near his mother and step-father. He worked nights, earned a GED, then a degree from Northland Community & Technical College.

While he was in training with the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office, he worked as a Door Dash driver on his days off, delivering meals across the county. He wanted to get to know the roads he was going to patrol.

For the new deputy, each interaction with the public is an opportunity "to show my face," he said, "to get [the community] to understand we're here to help, instead of this scary uniformed person."

He was there when a curious little Somali boy pulled the fire alarm and accidentally evacuated an entire apartment building. When a young woman's car skidded off an icy road and into a ditch, he was able to call her father, who spoke little English, to reassure him that his daughter was safe.

Moments like that make him happy. Almost everything about this work and this place does.

"I am happy, always. Just imagine: Where I'm from to where I am now?" he said. "Me, having somewhere to sleep, food to eat, a job to go to that's already fulfilling to me. I do my job happy."