They’re truly St. Paul’s finest. And Burnsville’s, Fridley’s and Minneapolis’ finest.

You’ll also find them in the most innovative and progressive police departments across the state. They serve as chiefs, commanders, administrators, investigators and street cops. And if it’s true that you’re known by the company you keep, you couldn’t keep better company than the dedicated police officers who have earned a degree from the Master’s Program in Police Leadership, Administration and Education at St. Thomas.

St. Thomas was one of the first institutions of higher education in Minnesota to be involved with police education. In the early 1960s, faculty taught a variety of courses offered by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. In the late 1960s, St. Thomas established a Police Supervisor Program through the Management Center and in the 1970s formed a Criminal Justice program in the Sociology Department.

The master’s program began to take shape in 1979 with the development of a Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction in Public Safety Education and Administration, under the direction of Dr. William Salesses, dean of the graduate programs in education, and Phil Davis ’79 M.A., now president of the Minneapolis Community and Technical College. In 1997 the program was transferred to the Educational Leadership Department, where it meshed neatly with the department’s focus, faculty interests and experiences, and the common interests of students.

The program features both on-campus and off-campus programs. Off-campus programs are especially popular because classes are conveniently located in police departments or near where officers work. The university’s two new off-campus programs, west metro and St. Paul-east metro – each has about 25 students, with a total enrollment in the program of more than 100.

“The idea behind the off-campus, or cohort, program was really to follow the model that had been used with other School of Education programs to make them more readily accessible,” said Dr. William R. Carter III, director of the police leadership program and associate director of the university’s Alumni Association. Carter is a former Burnsville police officer and a former executive director of the Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training.

As the numbers in the program have grown, so has its reputation. In St. Paul, Police Chief William Finney is a strong supporter of the program. His department hosts three cohorts, with more than one-third of the officers coming from St. Paul.

“I am proud to have supported and encouraged this collaboration from the first day. As St. Paul’s chief of police, it is my duty to steward the future leadership of this police department,” Finney said. “I want managers, supervisors and officers who challenge themselves to provide public service in bold, new and efficient ways. Simply put – I want them to ‘think outside the box.’ The master’s program guides our personnel to analyze the complexities of today’s problems and issues so that they can begin the work of providing improved law enforcement services to the citizens whom we serve.”

To some people, having college-educated police officers is a unique idea. Minnesota, however, is a national leader by requiring an associate arts degree as a minimum. At St. Thomas over the years, the School of Education has taken police education to a new level through the development of the graduate degree in police leadership.

“This program clearly serves the mission of the university,” Carter said, “especially the section that says we seek ‘to develop morally responsible individuals who combine career competency with cultural awareness and intellectual curiosity.’ Graduate programs ‘emphasize the integration of theory with practice, enhance the professional competence and ethical judgment of their students, and foster personal growth and an appreciation of lifelong learning.’

“Police officers are the frontline representatives of government who have the ultimate authority to take a person’s life on a moment’s notice, while working with people in generally distressed situations in their personal lives. Having people with an education from St. Thomas that is built upon the liberal arts but focused within their professional area – to help bring about change – I think that fits the overall mission of the university,” he added.

The mission impacts not only the university and its student-police officers but also the communities they serve. Finney believes this “collaboration of two great St. Paul institutions” will make St. Paul an “even better place to live, work and visit.

“Public servants who improve their level of education and learn new ways of solving problems are those who are going to make a real difference in the quality of life in this city,” Finney said.

As program director, Carter sees firsthand the impact that educated police leadership can deliver to a community. He points out that it is not an easy task when police so often deal with poverty, and the mentally ill and victims of violence who look to the police to correct their problems and right the wrongs they’ve suffered.

“The graduates of the program have made a positive difference in law enforcement,” Carter concluded. “As the program continues to grow, future graduates will be able to further develop the strong and innovative police leadership we need in these challenging times and will be seen as the community’s finest.”

Meet four of our finest:

‘I always knew I was going to be a cop.’

John Harrington, senior commander, Western District, St. Paul Police Department

“I didn’t go to college to be a cop. I went to college to get educated.”

John Harrington got that education. He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1977 and then became a cop with the St. Paul Police Department. In 1986 he earned a master’s degree in police leadership, administration and education from St. Thomas. Today he is one of St. Paul’s top cops as senior commander of the city’s Western District.

“There was no career path there,” Harrington said of his undergraduate years. “There were fundamental questions about the nature of the world that I needed to have answers to. The Philosophy Department was far too hung up on logic and discussions of that type of philosophy. It really wasn’t the type of philosophy that interested me. The Religion Department was asking me the really tough questions about ontology, epistemology, about ethics that I really wanted to have answers to.”

When it’s all about education, how does one go from pondering the eternal questions of life and the cosmos to experiencing the day-to-day life of a street cop?

“My dad was a cop, and I always knew I was going to be a cop. My parents thought that college was a very important thing to do, and I didn’t have any disagreement with them. … I always knew that when I got done with college, what I wanted to do was be a cop,” said Harrington, a Chicago native.

Harrington remembers the day he joined the St. Paul Police Department. It was July 11, 1977. Some 2,000 applied for positions, and he was one of 50 hired to train at the 26-week police academy.

“In 1977 all you needed was a high school diploma, a driver’s license, no felony convictions, and a half-way decent back to get hired by the police department,” Harrington joked.

Twenty-six years later, as the Western District’s senior commander, Harrington is responsible for 115 officers who serve the city from Larpenteur Avenue on the north to Highland Park on the south (less most of West Seventh Street), and from Minneapolis on the west to the outskirts of downtown on the east. The area, he points out, includes four business districts, all of St. Paul’s private colleges, all of the big churches, synagogues and mosques, the State Fair grounds, Highland and Como parks, and some 140,000 residents, including the “richest of the rich” and “some of the poorest people in the city.”

Harrington developed an interest in St. Thomas’ police leadership program because of his love for teaching. He left college with the thought of teaching as a second career, so he began to look around. Officers Deb Montgomery ’81 M.A. and Don Winger ’82 M.A., graduates of the police leadership program, urged him to look at St. Thomas.

“They just raved about the professors,” Harrington said. “They raved about the kind of discussions they were able to have in the classes that you don’t normally get into while you’re in roll call.”

He found the program valuable because it put him in contact with “other cops who wanted to think, and wanted to think outside of the normal structures of what was then the model of professional policing.”

Harrington teaches at five colleges, primarily criminal justice in the areas of problem solving, community policing, juvenile justice and gangs. He credits the St. Thomas master’s program for its strong influence on how he teaches, how he conducts training, how St. Paul’s police academy is run, and how he put together the law enforcement program for Metropolitan State University.

“One other thing it did,” he added, “was to provide me a vehicle for a much-higher level of discourse in terms of what policing should be about, and beyond that it also provided me a vehicle to further my interest in philosophy. … It was a nice blend of professional development, and it satisfied my academic needs.”

‘You have to keep learning.’

Lynne Tellers Bankes, captain, Fridley Police Department

Law enforcement was a man’s world in 1980 when the Fridley Police Department hired Lynne Tellers Bankes. Not only was she the first woman hired for patrol in Fridley, she was the first woman hired for patrol in Anoka county.

“Calling it a man’s position would be an understatement. It was very much a man’s position, a man’s world,” said Tellers Bankes, a May 2003 graduate of the master’s program in Police Leadership, Administration and Education. Her first bulletproof vest and uniforms were men’s; there were no locker room accommodations for women. Wives of her fellow officers felt threatened.

“All of those things were a challenge that I took on with great zeal and zest, and made sure that I made a difference for the women coming up behind me,” she said. “I used a great deal of humor to get through it.”

She also used a little muscle to earn the respect of her fellow officers. A few months after being hired by Fridley, Tellers Bankes found herself in the department’s holding facility with a highly intoxicated young lady. “She was just a little bitty thing, but she hauled off and sucker punched me. I had never been sucker punched in my life, and I was just taken aback,” she tells the story. “I grabbed her and the fight was on.”

She yelled and yelled for help from a couple of officers sitting in the roll call room just 10 feet away. No help came.

“I finally got her handcuffed and under control, and I’m sweating and my hair is all a mess, and my uniform is torn, and I turn around and there’s two guys leaning against the holding cell wall saying, ‘We knew you could win, Lynne. We bet five bucks on you’,” Tellers Bankes continued.

She was “livid” and shared a few choice words with them and the sergeant that night, but she proved that she could handle herself. “I’ve been told since then that that’s what got me the respect of the department that I needed to be successful.”

She adds that the officers would have assisted had her safety been in serious trouble, but “it was a learning curve for all of us.”

Twenty-three years later, much has changed. Uniforms, shoes, boots, gun belts and even pistol grips are designed for women. Tellers Bankes is married. Her husband, Bob, an investigator with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, graduated from the master’s program with her in May. In November 2002, they gave birth to twins. “I missed just one class,” Tellers Bankes said with pride.

But one thing has not changed. In Tellers Bankes words: “You have to keep learning.” She wanted to earn her master’s to move up in the ranks and teach. As captain, she is second in command in the Fridley Police Department. She co-teaches a course on rape and sexual-assault prevention, and on self-defense at Metropolitan State.

“You never go wrong continuing to educate your mind. As an adult learner going back, it’s so rewarding to be able to share your work experience, your life experience and have it be valuable and used in a classroom situation,” Tellers Bankes said. “To share your experiences with other people, to hear other people’s experiences, and to use the information – it just makes you think beyond your little box. …

“ The master’s program continues to let your mind grow. It opens up new insights. It gives you a whole new perspective on what the possibilities are. You become very closed-minded, especially in police work. It’s a very closed environment, a closed-caste system, and if you don’t continue to open your mind and learn what the new people who are coming aboard are learning, they’re going to walk right over you and keep on going. You have to keep learning.”

‘The broader perspective you have, the better you’re going to do in the long run.’

Tim Dolan, commander, Fourth Precinct, Minneapolis Police Department

For Tim Dolan, law enforcement is all about problem solving and relationships, and a godfather who directed him to his life’s work.

His godfather, Jerry Dolan, was a lieutenant with the St. Paul Police Department and a Tommie. “He was the guy in charge of running security at the football games at St. Thomas when I was there,” Dolan ’77 recalled. “So I’d run into him every Saturday because I worked the concessions there with the Lettermen’s Club.”

Jerry encouraged him to pursue a career in law enforcement. Dolan followed his advice and majored in sociology (criminal justice). He began his career with a five-year stint with the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Department, working in the courts and jails, before moving to the Minneapolis Police Department in 1983.

He came back to St. Thomas to earn his master’s degree in police leadership, administration and education in 1984. “The interesting thing about a program like that is that it encourages you to keep a wider frame of reference as far as relationships and what you’re dealing with. … The value is that it broadens your horizons as to what’s out there, who is doing different things, and it makes you think,” he said.

As commander of the Fourth Precinct, which covers virtually all of Minneapolis’ north side, his responsibilities include crime issues, facilities, personnel and equipment, “but, basically, the bottom line is dealing with issues and developing relationships in the community.”

That Dolan’s name has been aired as a potential candidate to replace Minneapolis Police Chief Robert Olson when he retires is ample testimony to the success Dolan has had in developing relationships within the community.

Dolan believes that when you’re dealing with issues, a lot of it is problem solving, and the master’s program “makes you a better problem solver.”

“The thing about law enforcement is that you can tend to start to have a narrow focus,” he said. “You can look at your field and your issues and forget about some of the other things that are going on peripherally that actually could help you in your job down the line. It gives you a wider frame of reference and more people to call when you have questions. ‘How do you deal with it? Have you seen this before?’ It encourages that.

“Education in general broadens your horizons and makes you realize that you don’t know all the answers, and there’s a lot of things you can do to find the answers that help you deal with issues and problem solving. And the more you do the better you’re going to be and the more broad you’re going to be in your outlook toward things,” Dolan concluded. “In this kind of job – especially when you’re dealing with issues and residents and societal problems, the broader perspective you have the better you’re going to do in the long run.”

‘You learn to value even more the differences that are out there.’

Dave Farrington, chief of police, Burnsville Police Department

“I didn’t go to college with the idea of being a cop. It was the furthest thing from my mind.” Thirty-two years of law enforcement later, Dave Farrington is the chief of police in Burnsville.

A 1971 St. John’s University graduate who earned his master’s degree from St. Thomas in 1992, Farrington recalled a tip he received in 1971 from Harold Higgins, superintendent of the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension: “He said, ‘Go out to Burnsville. They’re doing some unusual things out there. I think you’d like it out there.’ ”

Farrington describes himself as “wide-eyed” and “didn’t have a clue” at the time, but 12 ride-alongs and a year later he was hired.

Farrington rose through the ranks – sergeant, lieutenant, captain – and “held just about every position.” He’s been Burnsville’s chief since 1998.

“I started in ’71 as a public safety officer, and you were both a police officer and a firefighter. We were very nontraditional. We required college degrees then to get hired,” he said. “So we fought fires and were street cops at the same time, and we wore nontraditional uniforms. We wore blue blazers, and shirt and tie.”

Farrington started down the road that led back to school when he was 40 and attended the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Va., picking up three graduate courses. When he returned, Winger, a former commander with the St. Paul Police Department and retired chief of police in Maplewood, encouraged him to give St. Thomas’ master’s program a try. Apprehensive, Farrington started with a weekend class.

“I got hooked into adult learning,” he said. “It’s a lot different than undergrad – that’s for sure. It’s an excellent program. It’s very applicable to your job. They let you customize some of what you’re doing, and they tell you to make it applicable to what you do day in and day out so it has a little more value to you.”

A master’s degree was not required to be chief of police, but it was preferred and “strongly valued.” “It exposes you to a lot of different people. … You get a different world view when you are exposed to different people, and I wouldn’t be sitting in this position today if I hadn’t gone back and got my master’s degree,” Farrington said.

Burnsville is not just the white suburb of its image. Farrington noted that minorities comprise 20 percent of the community. He points to the department’s 911 brochure, which is printed in Spanish, Russian and Somali, in addition to English.

The St. Thomas master’s program has influenced his approach to policing. “You learn to value even more the differences that are out there,” he said. “People think differently, they process information differently, they act differently, and just because they’re different doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. … I think it gives you more of a well-rounded, big-picture exposure to what the world is all about and how we all fit into it.”