The City Council on August 4 approved a request to name the Western District police building at 389 N. Hamline Ave. as the “William K. Finney Western District” after the city’s first Black police chief.

William Finney was born and raised in the Rondo neighborhood and graduated from Central High School in 1966 and from Mankato State University four years later. While in Mankato, he worked as a police reserve officer.

Finney was sworn in as a Saint Paul police officer in 1971, and worked his way up the ranks. He was a patrol officer, investigator, community project leader, patrol supervisor, director of training, and executive officer and team commander for the Central District.

In 1992, he became the first African-American in Minnesota history to be appointed when he was named the city’s 38th chief of police. He served in that role for 12 years and retired after more than 33 years with the department.

Finney is credited with diversifying the department, implementing community-oriented policing strategies, hiring officers who more closely reflected the city’s demographics and promoting women to leadership positions. He created the Chief’s Advisory Council, which provided feedback from diverse groups around the city, and helped draft an anti-racial profiling agreement in 2001.

Finney served on the Saint Paul School Board for several years, first after being elected in 1989 and returning in 2005 as an interim member. In 2015 he served as an interim City Council member.

— Jane McClure


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