Fellow Officers, Longtime Friends

Resolute and courageous. Steady and confident.

These core characteristics are shared by our region’s most successful peace officers. When these innate qualities are bolstered by extensive educational systems and proven training programs, it puts people on the path of a rich and rewarding law enforcement career.

Two women from our community – friends since elementary school – are recent recruits to the West Fargo Police Department (WFPD).

Suham Ali and Irankuna Adel have many similarities in life. They grew up in West Fargo and attended MSUM. These two Black women are daughters of immigrants with distinctive experiences – and eager to serve their diverse hometown.

By day, Ali is a patrol officer and was an MSUM student pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in criminal justice. The flexible online program prepares students to work as a peace officer or within law enforcement, courts, corrections, reentry and victim services. Adel is one of M State’s recent graduates and now attends MSUM. She works the night shift as a patrol officer.

“Working with somebody you can trust and be friends with is great,” said Adel.

The pair honed this part-friend, part-colleague partnership while previously working together at Culver’s Restaurant and Centre, Inc., a nonprofit providing rehabilitative services to individuals seeking social re-integration. Their passion for helping people goes way back.

“Originally, I was going to be a dentist,” said Ali, noting that changed following a positive experience with a school resource officer (SRO). “Working with the youth and getting to them there is helpful. Teaching them the better way of life.” Her twin sister is a probation officer who also graduated from MSUM.

With its campus culture valuing and celebrating the diversity of ideas, perspectives and people, MSU Moorhead ignited a spark within her.

“Professor Joel Powell is one of the most notable instructors I’ve had. He really interacted with us and got to know us as students. He was always looking out for our interests and our well-being,” Ali said.

With MSUM and M State’s support, the pair attended the rigorous, one-semester Lake Region State Peace Officer Training Program held at the West Fargo Police Department. The 9-hour days educated them on physical fitness, criminal law, defense tactics and more, even offering in-depth training to serve diverse populations.

Some aspects didn’t come easy for Adel. “The first time we went shooting, I was scared,” she said. “I hadn’t shot a gun. Thankfully, they trained me until I was comfortable.” The pair left the program with two job offers from WFPD.

Every day is graded at this early stage in their law enforcement careers. The culture strives for the success of all its officers. “She has been really supportive, and I’ve been supportive of her,” said Ali. “And we have been studying for many days together during the academy and learning what to do.”

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program, in 2019, men made up 87.5 percent of full-time law enforcement officers nationwide and women comprised 12.5 percent. While the data didn’t clearly focus on sex, gender or both, nor how it included those who are nonbinary in their sex or gender identity, the distinction is clear: women are minorities in law enforcement.

Adel’s goal is to serve as a role model for her 16 nieces and two nephews and for the same community that welcomed her family fifteen years ago.

“I come from [Tanzania] where people need help. I knew I wanted to help people and make a difference,” she said, especially following troubled teenage years. “I liked how, even though I was in trouble, the police talked with me like I was human.” She forged a close relationship with her SRO, which led her to this calling.

As part of a historically marginalized population, Adel was concerned about a career in law enforcement. WFPD proved her wrong.

“I was afraid I wouldn’t get a job because I am a woman of color,” she said. When she discovered another Black woman serving as an officer at WFPD, “It encouraged me. I thought, ‘if she is working there, I can too!’”

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