Livingston to hang up her police badge on Friday

Linda Livingston Wiedewitsch was a law enforcement pioneer in Minnesota. Fresh out of Bemidji State University and armed with a bachelor of science degree in criminal justice, Livingston landed an internship with the Minnesota State Patrol in Jun...

Linda Livingston Wiedewitsch was a law enforcement pioneer in Minnesota.

Fresh out of Bemidji State University and armed with a bachelor of science degree in criminal justice, Livingston landed an internship with the Minnesota State Patrol in June 1975.

The Woman and Minority Trainee Program was a pilot undertaking for the nearly all white, all male 504-member law enforcement agency.

The program introduced three women -- one being Livingston -- along with an African American man and American Indian man.

"They were grooming us for the next trooper school," she remembers of the internship.


Livingston stayed with the program for nine months. The interns rode with the troopers, but they weren't licensed, couldn't carry firearms and the pay was only 60 percent of a starting trooper.

In 1977, the Detroit Lakes native was hired by the New Hope Police Department as a full-time officer. Most of it was spent as a patrol officer, but there was also six months as an investigator.

"It was a great place to work, but I hated living in the cities," added Livingston.

In 1980, she returned and remained at Detroit Lakes. Her law enforcement career in Becker County embraced three departments, including a lengthy stint with the Detroit Lakes Police Department.

But Friday, at age 52, Livingston is closing those chapters in her life. She is retiring to pursue other interests that are also near and dear to her heart.

"The city, as a whole, has been very good to me. I have no complaints," said Livingston Tuesday. "The City of Detroit Lakes has been a very good entity to work for."

Detroit Lakes Police Chief Kel Keena joined the department 10 years ago when Livingston was already an established investigator. Keena credits Livingston for being part of that first generation of women who "really came into law enforcement" and helped break down the stereotype of what police officers -- primarily male -- were all about.

"She was a real good candidate to do it. Not too much fazes her. She can hold her own physically and verbally in any confrontations that she might have had," stated Keena.


He praised Livingston for her incredible work ethic and attention to detail, combined with high standing, integrity and trust in the community.

"She was a real good investigator in that she was meticulous," said Keena. "She has a tough job (as investigator) and has done it well."

That first summer back in Becker County, Livingston worked part-time with the Frazee Police Department. By fall, she was a full-time dispatcher for the Becker County Sheriff's department. Because she was a licensed officer, Livingston was a fill-in deputy when needed.

When the Detroit Lakes Police Department underwent staffing changes in July 1983, Livingston was hired as a patrol officer, while Al Tyge became police chief, Walt Tollefson a captain and Ed Schmidt an investigator. Livingston became an investigator in 1993.

On two occasions -- six and nine months, respectively -- she worked with the West Central Drug Task Force. Livingston also taught the department's DARE program for five to six years, along with assisting the crime prevention program and as first aid officer.

There are mixed memories of her time with DARE. Some children stayed on the straight and narrow, while others drifted into criminal activity.

"I've had kids come back and say you arrested me. Some of them I charged and some of them I didn't charge, but I talked to them," said Livingston.

"If it was a real serious thing, I'd give them a choice: You can have a ticket and go to court or you have a butt chewing. Which do you want?"


Sometimes, it took a citation to straighten out an errant teenager or adult. She remembers one such instance when an extremely intoxicated adult woman who, after later reading the detailed arrest report, voluntarily entered treatment and pieced her personal life back together.

Did she get burned out by seeing the same people repeatedly in trouble?

"There are always frequent flyers or regulars. You can get frustrated -- why don't you learn? Why do we have to keep going back through this process," acknowledged Livingston.

But burn out is (or was) not a overriding factor in her career, nor a decision to retire.

Keena says Livingston wasn't the type to stay awake at night because of something that had happened on the job.

"You see a lot of things in law enforcement that a lot of people don't really even consider possible. You're the one dealing with it. I think Linda's got the personality for that," said Keena.

She liked the demands of being an investigator. First, it was determining what had happened and then work backward in discovering who, how and why.

"Then you get all the parts and pieces, it's like a puzzle. Is it a crime or is it something civil? Is it something that can be charged, and finding all the evidence you need to charge it? It's a challenge," she said.


It was fun being investigator, even though each day began with no inkling as to what may happen.

"You have no control over when the accidents happen or when the gas leaks occur or when somebody dies," she remarked.

Over the years, outside interests like horses, dogs and trap shooting, along with family, have been personal enjoyments. She and husband Archie Wiedewitsch board horses at their rural Detroit Lakes stable. Linda and Mary Holsen recently opened Lucky Dog Kennels in Detroit Lakes, and have a two-year contract with the city for stray pets.

Livingston will continue training and boarding dogs. For several years -- thanks to her daughters' involvement in 4-H -- she has trained dogs for Leader Dogs for the Blind.

A familiar daily companion with Livingston has been a "new" dog she is training for Leader Dogs. Livingston is putting the final touches on JD Hoot, who will be returned to Leader Dogs May 7. Her eighth dog for that program arrives in July.

"The thought of not having a puppy and not being able to take the puppy around, training it and get it ready to help somebody -- the reward in that is doing something for someone that I don't know and probably never ever meet," said Livingston.

DLPD officer Chad Glander will replace Livingston as investigator, joining investigator Chad Jutz. Glander has been the department for one year and has previous law enforcement experience in Mahnomen and Wright counties.

Keena has hired Brent Fulton, currently working as a Beltrami County correctional officer, as a patrol officer. He will be sworn in May 2.


This week, Livingston has been wrapping up outstanding cases. If there are any remaining files, those will be turned over to Jutz.

On Friday, Livingston wants some nostalgic time riding in the patrol car with Captain Paul Goecke -- the last remaining DLPD member from when she joined the department.

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