It was 1975 and the Minneapolis Police, eager to entice women and minority members, took out a newspaper ad, which caught the eye of Deoloris Dunn.
It seemed a natural fit.
In those days, if you had a problem you went to Dunn. Trouble with a neighbor, hard time finding a job, call Dunn. Known then as Deoloris McKinnies, until her marriage to Jim Dunn, she was seen as coolheaded and thick-skinned.
She had to be.
As the department’s first black female officer, she was among a handful of women who integrated an all-male force. Dunn, who went by “Dee,” and her then-partner, Shirleen Knapp, were the first female officers to share a patrol car. The Minneapolis Star quoted her saying that she gravitated to the job because she was “seeing and doing things few women have done.”
Things weren’t easy.
She regularly encountered discrimination. In an interview a few years ago, she recalled more than once opening her locker and finding a dead rat.
She never surrendered her blackness, nor her femininity, to fit in, said Ron Edwards, a veteran civil rights crusader and historian.
“She brought a lot of pride upon her hiring to the African-American community,” said Edwards. There were only about two dozen blacks on the force when she arrived. “The 1970s were a tough period and she had a lot to contend with.”
He said Dunn was later taken under the wing of the fabled Raymond “Red” Presley, the first black officer in the city to make lieutenant and inspector. He mentored a generation of black officers, including the current chief, Medaria Arradondo.
Put the community first, Presley told her, a lesson Dunn carried with her always.