Deoloris “Dee” Dunn was working as a Honeywell assembler and desk clerk when she saw a newspaper ad that would jump-start her trailblazing career.
It was the mid-1970s, and the Minneapolis Police Department wanted to diversify its ranks, which up until that time had never had a woman, let alone a black woman like Dunn, in uniform.
“They had a thing in the paper [that] they were going to hire women, and they definitely would love to hire blacks,” Dunn said in a YouTube video published by the department in 2016.
Dunn, who was in her early 30s at the time and went by her previous name, McKinnies, said later, “I thought, ‘OK, I’ll give it a shot.’ ”
In 1975, she went on to become Minneapolis’ first black female police officer and one of a small group of the first sworn female officers in the department, ending the force’s all-male history.
Dunn, who died in January at age 74, was honored Saturday afternoon by her family and the law enforcement community.
Newspaper clippings chronicling her career, as well as other mementos from her time on the force, including her desk name plate, a certificate of merit and even her tae kwon do registration form, were on display at her memorial service in St. Paul.
Her police cap, badge and a photo of a beaming Dunn in full uniform were placed near an urn containing her ashes, which members of the police department’s honor guard saluted Saturday.
“She had to truly be a trailblazer,” said retired Minneapolis deputy chief William Jones, who was in the same rookie class as Dunn. “She was a good, tough cop, but she had class, too.”
It wasn’t always easy. Dunn recounted one time when she opened her locker at work to find that a dead rat had been placed inside.
Such incidents didn’t deter her. She went from cadet to officer to sergeant in her 18 years on the force, retiring in July 1993.
In a prepared statement, Medaria Arradondo, the city’s first black police chief, called Dunn “a true pioneer” and said “her perseverance, professionalism and leadership paved the way for many women.”
One of Dunn’s granddaughters, Rebecca Posten, who is preparing to follow in Dunn’s footsteps as a peace officer, said she will always remember her grandmother’s words to her.
“I want you to remember that you matter and that you are somebody,” she told her.
Dunn was preceded in death by her husband, Jim; a son, Keith, and a daughter, Tahrita. She is survived by a sister, Kathleen Sullivan, seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.