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First Somali-American officer promoted to rank of Minneapolis PD commander

By Paul Blume
Friday November 3, 2023

It is a first in what Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O’Hara hopes is a “long line of many.”

Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O’Hara recently promoted Abdirahman Ali to the rank of Commander, overseeing the Internal Affairs division. Ali became the very first Somali-American officer to reach the rank of Commander at the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD). The department also believes his climb up the command staff likely makes him the highest-ranking Somali-American police official in the entire country.

“We are slowly regaining the public trust, and we are doing that one call at a time,” Commander Ali explained to FOX 9’s Paul Blume during a recent interview at Minneapolis City Hall. “I am overwhelmed and grateful for the opportunity.”

Ali did not arrive in the United States until he was eight years old, and now, nearly three decades later, he is a Minneapolis Police Commander. He currently reports directly to Deputy Chief of Community Trust and Engagement, Christopher Gaiters, with oversight of three units: Candidate Investigations, Force Investigations, and Internal Complaint Investigations.

Ali said he was inspired to pursue a career in law enforcement because of the positive interactions he had with MPD community liaison officers while growing up in the city.

His decade-plus career has taken Ali all across Minneapolis and throughout the department, from beat cop assignments on the north and south sides, to bike patrol and community engagement, all the while, building bridges and establishing trust with Minneapolis’ East African immigrant population.

In 2016, while wearing the badge, he traveled back to Somalia to work with law enforcement in his native land.

“Being a kid, not remembering anything from back home and then having an opportunity as a police officer to go back there and train some of the officers there, it was tremendous for me, and the community here,” Ali said.

“So, the residents of this city need to know this is the type of police officer that you have today,” added O’Hara.

O’Hara just made it official recently, promoting Ali to the rank of Commander in a major shakeup of department leadership and structure. While O’Hara said he cares about milestones and what a promotion might mean for a community that has had strained relations with the police department over the years; the chief insists his main focus is remaking MPD by making sure the right leaders are in place in the wake of George Floyd’s murder more than three years ago.

“I think in order for us to move on, I think we need people to come into these positions new and fresh with a new outlook and saying, ‘okay, it is time for us to get back to our purpose. It is time for us to remember why we took these jobs in the first place. And it is time for us as a department to move on together,'” O’Hara said.

“One of the reasons why I stayed in this department is because of the fact that I believe in this community, I believe in this department,” explained Ali. “And I think in order for you to be part of the transformation, you have to be willing to stand up and take leadership.”

Ali admitted he thought long and hard about whether he still wanted to do the job after the unrest of 2020. He says now, he is thrilled with his decision to keep his badge, adding he feels a lot of responsibility as the first Somali-American to earn this promotion to Commander.

He reports the department currently has 11 Somali-American officers on the force.

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