A few years ago, the Edina Historical Society created an exhibit about the history of Edina's Police and Fire Department. With the help of police officer Kevin Rofidal and retired firefighter Steve Nelson, we collected photos and stories, and objects ranging from police uniforms to mug shot cameras to 1940s firefighter gear. After a year the exhibit was taken down and a new display went up, but the stories and artifacts remain in the collection. The other day I came across one of the stories that still makes me laugh, and I thought I'd dust it off for your enjoyment today.
For 20 years, Al Hines was the voice of the Edina Police Department. The police dispatcher, known as “Uncle Al,” led a young group of officers with a benevolent but firm hand. Or, as Al put it: “I didn’t take any crap from anyone.”
Mention Hines and most people laugh and say, “What a character.” A Navy veteran when he started at Edina in the mid 1960s, he was older than most colleagues and “brought balance and discipline to a somewhat undisciplined group of officers,” recalled former officer Doug Madsen.
Hines started as a dispatcher when communications was “very, very simplified,” said Hines, who began dispatching after one afternoon of training. “There was one receiver…we sat at a desk that was right along the front counter. And there (were) books, and garbage and junk in that counter.”
One day, Al heard a radio call somewhere in the “junk.” “There’s a receiver way in the back, stuck there, so I dug it out. Come to find out they were experimenting with, in the case of an armed robbery, or something like that, they put out a call on this particular radio and they could have up to 400 police officers at predetermined spots, so that they would cover get-aways, and stuff like that. Good thing I found out what that was.”
Al loved his job. “To me, it was interesting. No two days were the same. I don’t know. I just enjoyed it.” He died in June 2007 at age 83.
Police dispatch didn't exist when the Village of Edina hired its first police officer in 1930. Residents reported crimes by calling police officer Percy Redpath's home and talking to his wife Mary Lena. With no radio in his car, Redpath had to stop in at resident's homes or at the Country Club Garage at 50th and France to call home for messages. In today's cell phone world, we take instant communication for granted, but it wasn't until 1955 that Edina police cars had two-way radio.
For more fun stories and the major milestones in Edina's dispatch history, see the timeline below or find the link to the document here.
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Jennifer Adam is the Executive Director of the Edina Historical Society. She welcomes your contributions. Comment on a post or send an email (see below). Traditional mail, of course, can also be sent to:
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