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Behind the Badge

Behind the Badge: Police Officer Tenzin Dongag

Posted by Drew Kerr | Monday, June 5, 2023 6:19:00 AM

Police Officer Tenzin Dongag stands in front of a squad car outside the Metro Transit Police Department.

Please tell us a little bit about your background 

My parents are from Tibet. After Tibet was invaded by China in 1959, they escaped to India where I was born. I grew up in a boarding school there before I came to St. Paul when I was 7 or 8 with my parents and siblings. My dad got here first, and he worked hard and saved enough to bring the whole family over. I grew up in St. Paul and went to public schools there and Hamline University. I double majored in criminal and social justice and earned a certificate in conflict studies.    

How did you get into law enforcement? 

In fifth grade, I used to watch a lot of "The X-Files’" and "Law & Order." I got really interested in the law enforcement field. I was the first person in my family to go to college. I didn’t have anybody to talk to about how to pick a major and what is law enforcement. I worked a lot of community events, such as New Year’s events and concerts at the Tibetan community center in St. Paul. That motivated me to engage with people as a police officer. 

How do you celebrate your Tibetan culture today? 

We have a small Tibetan community in Minnesota and I believe I am the only Tibetan police officer in Minnesota. We have a community center where we meet and celebrate our holidays. Since we are so spread out in the U.S. and Minnesota, the community center is the only space where we share each other’s stories and teach the younger generation about old traditions. One of the biggest traditions is a peaceful protest every March 10 to tell people stories about the Tibetan Independence Day where Tibet fought for independence against China. We love cooking in our house, especially fixing momo, a steamed dumpling filled with ground beef and vegetables. We make that for special occasions such as New Year’s and birthdays. Families make it together. It’s like Thanksgiving dinner where everyone comes together to cook. 

How do your professional life and your culture intersect? 

My community is really big on Buddhism and compassion. I am working with the community in this job, and I am constantly helping the community and trying to understand where someone is coming from. I speak Tibetan and Hindi, in addition to English. 

Learn more about becoming a Metro Transit police officer or Community Service Officer