The St. Cloud Police Department recently broke down a barrier of diversity in its recent hires of 2014. The SCPD hired its first African-American woman, Talisha Barlow, to their police force.
At the young age of 25, Barlow has endured many adversities as well as conquered many triumphs to achieve the position she holds now here in St. Cloud. However, it may seem as though her whole upbringing has adhered to her path towards a career in law enforcement.
Barlow, a patrol officer for the SCPD, has been apart of the St. Cloud community for seven years and has seen many changes from the beginning of her residency to where she is now.
“I feel the community has become more evolved since I first came here,” Barlow said. “When I first got here I felt like the campus and the community wasn’t as diverse, but now I fast forward to when I got hired in December of 2013, St. Cloud came a long way.”
Growing up in Roseville, a Minneapolis suburb, Barlow cultivated a passion for basketball and showed her drive and determination for the sport by playing all four years of varsity basketball for Roseville High. She then pursued her love for the game an hour north of Roseville, here, at St. Cloud State University.
Barlow achieved what so many in the realm of competitive athletics at the high school level dream of, a full-ride athletic scholarship. She chose Husky basketball over the rest because of their renowned reputation among the Division II level.
“I always work hard in school, but mainly my first thing was basketball. They [St. Cloud State University women’s basketball] were like the top four in the nation, they went to the final four and I knew if I was going to play Division II basketball, I want go there,” Barlow said.
Barlow did not always want to be a police officer and, in fact, did not choose St. Cloud State based on the law enforcement program the university had to offer. However, she did want to major in psychology to help and counsel people during difficult times.
“I really wanted to gear more towards counseling,” Barlow said. “I thought that with some of the things I experienced in my life, I would love to help other people.”
During a study abroad trip to Scotland, England and Ireland, offered by a local St. Cloud State professor who was also a retired FBI agent, Barlow studied FBI profiling as well as intelligence. After her studies overseas, she became more intrigued with the field and pursued an internship with the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, otherwise known as the ATF, in St. Paul, Minn.
“I got to shadow all of the special agents,” said Barlow. “I went to court, I got to see how they set up surveillance, I got to watch them do undercover buys and sells stuff like that, I mean I was really intrigued by it, I thought, wow.”
After Barlow’s experiences with her internship and her trip overseas, she got a few nudges from some influential leaders in the community of St. Cloud, one of which was the assistant Chief of Police Richard Wilson, whose recent death has shocked many community members, as well as the St. Cloud Police Department.
“I went to lunch with him [Wilson] and he started telling me all about the St. Cloud Police Department and I honestly I never would have ever thought about ever being a cop and working for St. Cloud Police Department,” said Barlow.
“I’ll never forget when he [Wilson] showed me all the officers that were on the wall and then he said, ‘If you’re serious about this and you want to do this, this could be you,’” he said.
After being hired by the department as a community service officer and completing her internship with the ATF, Barlow completed all the training and licensing necessary to fulfill the criteria to become a police officer. Then in December of 2013, the St. Cloud Police Department broke down both a racial and gender barriers by hiring Barlow, the first African-American woman on the force.
As the first African American woman on the force, Barlow overcame many obstacles including the tokenism associated with being who she was.
Barlow said that she was naive to the fact that people would judge her based on her skin color as well as that people in her field would assume she got hired by the department because of her race and gender. According to Barlow however, many people did in fact make comments that would insinuate just that.
To overcome talk about her within the department, Barlow continues to strive and focus on the personal element that separates her from many other officers on the force, which is the way she deals with people.
“I want people to see through my badge,” said Barlow.