From beat cop to the first African-American St. Paul Chief of Police, to Ramsey County Undersheriff ,William (Bill) Finney (aka Corky), epitomizes the spirit of public service.
Black History Month is much more than only celebrating events. Black History Month provides a national platform for sharing our collective stories, an opportunity to tell our stories in our own voices and to the beat of our own drums … an opportunity to celebrate our special people.
This is fifth year of the United Nation’s General Assembly’s proclamation of the 2015-2024 International Decade for People of African Descent. Black History Month is the perfect venue to honor and pay homage to those who personify and/or contribute to the positive development of people of African descent. In this case, Bill Finney.
As one of the top-ranking undersheriffs, Finney will head community relations and efforts to diversify the department through recruitment, hiring, retention and promotion. He will be the main liaison to the St. Paul City Council, mayor’s office and police department. His strategic thinking skills will be utilized to create effective strategies to add deputies and correctional officers that reflect the increasingly multicultural, diverse communities of Ramsey County.
“I always put it like this,” remarked Finney when asked about engaging the community around Policing. “You have to constantly make deposits into the bank of community trust, because one day you're going to have to make a withdrawal. I want our community, instead of saying, as a squad car goes by, ‘There goes the police,’ I want them to say, ‘There goes our police.’ There's a difference when people take ownership. That's our police. And a resident knows that's our police because resident knows the police leadership knows that they listen to the things that are important to them and to their family. So, then it becomes very, very personal and then you get the support you need in order for us to be able to do our jobs effectively.”
Finney said the Ramsey County Sheriff’s office is going to be a place where people can come and talk to their sheriff.
“They can talk to his undersheriff's. They can come up, people from the public can come in and say, ‘Hey, I got this problem with this. What can we do to fix it?” said Finney.
With more than 35 years of law enforcement experience, Finney brings an extensive and accomplished career with the city of St. Paul to Ramsey county – a county of 16 cities and two townships with more 30 languages spoken. The foundation of the flagship best practices outreach model Finney created for St. Paul will be specifically tailored to include the six school districts, 249 schools and 85,000-plus diverse student population he now serves.
According to United States Census Bureau 2016 Annual Population Estimates, Ramsey County is the most fully-developed and densely populated county in the state, as well as one of the most diverse. According to the Census Bureau estimates for July 1, 2017, Ramsey County population is 338,800 white, a 1 percent decrease, 64,836 Black, an 18 percent increase, 41,431 Hispanic, a 14 percent gain and 82,761 Asian, a 39 percent jump.
Here’s the thing about Undersheriff Bill Finney, he is approachable. He is open to the needs of our growing and diverse communities. He is sensitive to the realization that in his new role, St. Paul, his old turf, is just one piece of a greater puzzle … the puzzle that makes up Ramsey County.
Newly elected Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher made a powerful statement when he brought Bill Finney out of retirement and put him back into public service.
“We’re here because we want to make a difference,” said Fletcher. “This is how we want to finish our careers and our lives. We want to burn the candle as bright as we can until we walk out the door.”
That candle they are burning is indeed bright. Bright with promise for a stronger county.