In the early 1960s, New York Police Department and others throughout the country visited Edina to learn about its revolutionary “random patrol” method.
The idea was to keep criminals guessing by making patrols unpredictable. A spin of a handmade game wheel (see above photo from the May 1962 Village of Edina newsletter) determined where officers would patrol next. Every 20 minutes or so, a dispatcher would send a squad to a different area of town.
Police officer Kevin Rofidal, unofficial historian for the Edina police department, wrote, "In cooperation with the Indiana University Police Science Institute, Edina was divided into several small districts. The past incidents of calls and crime were calculated and mathematical values were assigned to these areas. The values were converted into percentages in relation to the overall crime in Edina. Four electric roulette wheels were adapted and locations within the small districts were assigned throughout the roulette wheels. During the shift, a dispatcher would spin the roulette wheel, which would determine where the mostly likely place a crime might occurred based on the formulas and a squad would be sent to that location. In the beginning, this was done just on the overnight dog shift 2300-0700 and later expanded to all shifts."
Chief Wayne Bennett and other law professionals pointed to the success of statistically random patrols, but the innovative program was one of the few introduced by Bennett that didn’t last.
Bennett was known as an innovator, who brought professionalism and stature to the police department during a rapid period of Edina’s growth.
“We were known nationwide. We had a reputation was number one in innovation in the entire State of Minnesota,” said retired officer Jim Crawford. “You know we are pretty proud of that.”
While many police chiefs during the 1940s and 1950s came to the job without advanced education, Bennett had a law degree and F.B.I. training. He had work experience as a patrolman and lieutenant in Albert Lea and as Assistant Chief of Staff for the MN Department of Civil Defense. In preparation for the opening of the world's first shopping mall, located in what was then a small farming community, the Village Council hired Bennett in 1955 to professionalize the department.
Bennett pioneered the beginning of many programs which are a common place in law enforcement today, such as a police liaison in the schools and a community crime fund. Bennett retired in 1975 after more than 20 years as Edina Chief of Police.
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