A trailblazer in law enforcement announced she is running for Hennepin County sheriff.
Suwana Kirkland, president of Minnesota's National Black Police Association chapter, made the announcement in a tweet Wednesday afternoon. Kirkland, who lives in Rogers, is director of Dakota County Community Corrections, a position she has held for almost a year, and is an adjunct instructor at the University of St. Thomas, according to her LinkedIn profile.
"Everyone deserves a safe community," she said in an interview Wednesday night. "I've been preparing for this opportunity for the last 15 years. I've held various positions in law enforcement and I used every opportunity to learn and grow."
The news of Kirkland's run was first tweeted by an Axios reporter Wednesday.
Before her work at Dakota County, Kirkland was the first Black woman to work as deputy sheriff at the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office, a position she held for about 14 years.
There Kirkland was also the first Black woman to be promoted to sergeant and commander. She launched a women's academy, a women's-only introduction to law enforcement — in an effort to recruit more women to the industry.
Kirkland landed her first police job in 2005 with Minnetonka police, as the first African American in the department.
She previously told the Star Tribune she opposed calls from some activists to defund or dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department following George Floyd's death. Kirkland also said she agreed reforms are needed — from more implicit bias training to increasing de-escalation training to reduce the use of force.
Besides hiring more people of color, Kirkland previously told the Star Tribune officers have to get out in the community more, not just show up when someone calls 911.
"Law enforcement has gotten away from telling the community about why you're doing what you're doing," she said. "Every day, I wake up and … I'm working for someone other than myself. I'm working to make the profession, the interactions and the engagement better."
The announcement comes as Hennepin County Sheriff David Hutchinson was sentenced for drunken driving after crashing his work vehicle near Alexandria, Minn. His blood alcohol level was nearly twice the state's legal limit.
On Wednesday, Hennepin County Commissioner Irene Fernando issued a statement calling on Hutchinson to resign, saying his actions are "egregious, and his comments since the crash are unjustifiable."
Commissioner Jeffrey Lunde later tweeted a statement supporting Fernando's position.
Staff writer Kelly Smith contributed to this report.