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Eagan Police Department celebrates 50 years - 2015

St. Paul Pioneer Press, April 19, 2015 reports on the 50th anniversary of Eagan's Police Department.

When Eagan Township’s police department got a 1965 Ford station wagon 50 years ago, it was a big deal to then-Chief Martin DesLauriers.

The car was the township’s first police cruiser, and residents saw it as a sign of community growth and progress, DesLauriers, now 83, recently recalled.

“It was hard to imagine Eagan Township ever buying a car for police,” he said. “So it was nice to have, for sure. We only had one truck for snowplowing.”

Eagan Township’s police department was formed in June 1965, with DesLauriers serving as its first chief. Richard LeMay and Don Smith were the department’s part-time officers.

“I think I knew 95 percent of the people in town then and all their kids,” said DesLauriers, who grew up in the township and was a constable for a decade before becoming chief. Before the arrival of the Ford station wagon, he patrolled the township in his own car.

On May 14, the current city of Eagan will mark the police department’s first half-century with a celebration at City Hall. The event will include music, activities for kids, free refreshments and a presentation of a painting commemorating the milestone.

Two years ago, Eagan artist Larry Landis approached Police Chief Jim McDonald with the idea to create a police-themed painting for the city at no charge. The 68-year-old previously painted scenes commemorating the Eagan Fire Department’s 50th anniversary in 2013 and the 100th anniversary of the Eagan Town Hall last year.

“I would have been a fool to say no,” McDonald said. “He does great work for the city.”

The painting depicts a young DesLauriers stepping into the Ford station wagon cruiser, and current Sgt. Dan Tocko waving goodbye.

In the painting, Tocko and officer Alison Burstein stand at the entrance to O’Brien’s Halfway House, an old bar that got its name from Rosemount farmers because it was about halfway to St. Paul, McDonald said.

“There’s a connection with the old O’Brien’s and the police department,” McDonald said. “The dad of one of our former officers, Bob O’Brien, used to own it.”

Landis said he wanted to create a scene that gave a nod to the past and the present. So he researched the department’s history, sifted through old photos and reached out to current and former officers, including DesLauriers, who retired in 1983.

Landis included the city’s first city hall-police station in the painting, as well as a low-flying Northwest Airlines propeller-driven plane and a badge marking the 50th anniversary. Eagan’s 70 officers have been wearing commemorative badges since Jan. 1.

Eagan was incorporated as a village in 1972 and was designated a city on Jan. 1, 1974.

Nick Ferraro can be reached at 651-228-2173.

Follow him at twitter.com/NFerraroPiPress.

IF YOU GO

What: Eagan Police Department’s 50th anniversary celebration

When: 5-8 p.m. May 14

Where: City Hall, 3830 Pilot Knob Road

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