Somali teens graduate special St. Paul police academy - My29 WFTC Minneapolis-St. Paul

Somali teens graduate special St. Paul police academy

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) -

It's graduation day at the St. Paul Police Department's Western District Headquarters, but the graduates are all teenagers.

Yuki Abdulle is one of 2 dozen Somali teenagers who took part in the department's first ever East African Junior Police Academy.

"It was an amazing experience because I always wanted to know what goes on behind the scenes of an officer's job. What they did and wondering about it," Abdulle said.

For the last 4 weeks, the group has had hands-on experience with everything from bomb squad robots to personal defense.

"My other favorite was when we got to check out the firearms -- I really enjoyed it because I play video games and I like firearms and how to use them," Abdulle said.

It's all in an effort to build a bridge between the police department and the Somali community.

"Maybe these people are not the enemy. Maybe these people are here to help us. They are not out there to get us," said Abdulle.

The graduation comes the same day Kadra Mohamed became the first Somali woman to get a department badge and uniform, and only the second in the country after a female officer in D.C. to wear a special hijab along with her uniform.

"Hopefully it's a good thing. I am showing my identity. The hijab is an important part of my culture and my religion so the police department worked with me a lot. They were very cooperative to make sure its form-fitting and it's also ok with the uniform for safety reasons," Mohamed said.

Abdulle says she wants to be a teacher after she goes back to college, but learning what it takes to be a police officer is an experience that will last a lifetime.

"This is something I chose to do. Knowing that I did that and I motivated myself to do it every day -- that made it more special for me," she said.

Mohamed will work as a community liaison officer. She'll join the department's only sworn Somali American officer who joined the department a couple of years ago.

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