In 1994, when the internet was a budding technology and Boyz II Men topped the music charts, Eden Prairie police officers moved from their headquarters at 7900 Mitchell Road to a new space in City Hall. The department was 70 percent of the size it is today, patrolling a community of 45,000 people.
In the 25 years since, 31 new police staff have squeezed into 8080 Mitchell Road to police a city that’s now 65,000 and growing. In April, the department underwent a remodel aimed at maximizing the available office space, the cost of which was included in the city’s 2019-2028 capital improvement plan. In the same stroke, the department completed its transition to a nearly paperless operation.
Captain Bill Wyffels has been with EPPD for 30 years and oversaw the remodel, or as he called it, a “reshuffle.”
“This really doesn’t project us into the future,” he said of the changes, which included clearing out filing cabinets in the records room, adding more private offices and unifying the work spaces of the investigations and patrol divisions.
Previously, officers shared cubicles with little privacy for phone conversations with victims or suspects, and supervisors had few places to go for a quiet conversation with an officer or colleague. The patrol division was also located up a set of stairs, almost the furthest they could be from their cars if they received a call into the field. Now, patrol officers are closer to the exits, which Wyffels hopes will cut down response times to a 911 call.
“It gets people off each others’ laps a bit,” Wyffels said, but eventually, “we’re going to need a bigger space.”
The space-making project has been in the works since 2010, when the records division began digitizing files. The department creates around 9,000 files every year in its daily work, and most of them must be kept for seven years, which adds up to a lot of storage space. With the advent of digital record keeping, the records team largely replaced the bulky paper files with digital copies and slowly emptied out the storage space as new files became eligible for disposal. By 2017, the force’s records were largely digital, Wyffels said — a trend that’s reflected in the field as well.
“The strategies of the job have changed,” he said. “We used to live a world of paper ... When I was in investigations, check writing forgery was huge. Nobody writes checks anymore.”
The benefits of a digital era have come with some drawbacks as well. Video evidence is available like never before, with homeowners installing security cameras in larger numbers. While that may help investigators by providing more data, though, it’s also a mountain of evidence to sift through for a case.
“It’s not always about numbers — it’s about the time of investigation,” Wyffels explained.
The force has also adapted its strategies for increasing calls about mental health. EPPD created a task force to specifically address calls about mental health and find ways to prevent future incidents instead of dealing with it one crisis at a time, Wyffels said.
“Mental health is not something you can solve with 30 minutes at the scene,” he said. “We don’t just walk away.”
With the remodel bringing EPPD’s divisions back together in their work space, Wyffels hopes the new layout will help with cohesive communication within and between divisions.
The remodel is projected to be finished, with officers in their new spaces, by the end of June.