When Sgt. Brent DuPont joined the Eden Prairie police force at 23, Highway 5 was a two-lane road and Scenic Heights was a dirt road.
“Eden Prairie was cul-de-sacs and dirt roads everywhere,” he said. “I’ve seen the city grow and grow and grow.”
Now, more than three decades and eight different roles later, DuPont is preparing to call out of service on July 31 and end his time as a police officer.
“It’s a little scary, but then it’s also time,” he said. “Over half my life I’ve been doing it.”
DuPont was the first in his family to be a police officer. In college, he’d debated between law enforcement and computer science but decided that sitting in an office all day wasn’t for him, he said. Although he grew up in South Minneapolis, DuPont had never been to Eden Prairie before he began looking for work.
“I didn’t know where Eden Prairie was, even when I applied for the job,” he laughed.
When he was asked to interview, DuPont took a drive around the city to familiarize himself with the streets. He spent months learning from and training with other officers and was determined to do his best for the community.
“The minute you get our on your own, you get a bit more relaxed,” he recalled. “You want to prove they made a good choice in you.”
DuPont never stagnated in one position over his 31 years on the force. As an officer, he spent four and a half years on patrol, three and a half in a Community Oriented Policing unit, four as a school liaison officer, four in adult investigations, three on the Southwest Hennepin Drug Task Force, and one year in adult investigations; as sergeant, he spent six years on patrol and five and a half in juvenile investigations. Switching roles helped keep the job interesting, DuPont said.
“That kind of fires you up,” he explained, especially being a school liaison. “Working with kids keeps you young.”
A case that stands out to DuPont began during his time as a liaison officer in 1999. A teenager at Eden Prairie High School began robbing drug dealers at gunpoint, and DuPont helped arrest him. He served time in prison and was released but quickly began committing the same crimes that got him arrested, DuPont said. He wasn’t on the case the second time around, but he recognized the name and was able to share his experience with the suspect, warning investigators that an arrest might be dangerous. Sure enough, the man opened fire on officers when they went to arrest him. No one was hurt, and DuPont is grateful he was able to help.
“They had this information from me beforehand so they knew what kind of person he was,” DuPont said. “Not everyone we arrest is a bad guy ... But when you do arrest a career criminal, somebody you know is going to hurt people, those are the cases that stick out to me.”
The job of a police officer isn’t all happy endings. DuPont has been to his fair share of painful calls, including ones where young people are hurt or killed. In times of stress, he leaned on his department and colleagues for support.
“You realize, taking this job, there are always going to be highs and there are going to be lows.” he said. “I consider our department my second family.”
The feeling is mutual, and DuPont’s colleagues aren’t letting him step out the door without a celebration. In his last week of work, there’s a work party planned in his honor and a separate get-together at Green Mill in Eden Prairie.
“I hope I don’t boohoo and cry but I probably will,” DuPont admitted. “The camaraderie here is something I’ll miss.”
Dupont’s plans for life after July 31 are up in the air, which is fine with him. He’s looking forward to having more time to golf, fish and work on home projects, and he might look for work too. One thing is certain, though.
“I know Eden Prairie is in good hands,” Dupont said. “Let the younger people take over.”