1940s-70s, Police Stories, SPPD Historian PDF Print E-mail
Stories - William Francis Skally

Excerpts from the Rondo Oral History Project on

Community Policing in the old Rondo neighborhood by Officer Bill Skally

Bill Skally served as a Saint Paul Police patrolman from 1941 to 1973. During his assignment as a beat officer on Rondo he had a reputation of talking youth to their parents before arresting them. He was well respected for his knowledge of the community and its members.

 

BILLY COLLINS

Executive Director YWCA

Officer Skally, all six feet—he looked like he was a giant. He was so tall! And it’s like he read your mind. It’s like when you’re going to raid somebody’s apple tree and you get there and it’s like as soon as you got over the fence and you were going up the tree, he’d come down the alley. And he goes, “Well, figured I’d find you all here. Come on. Get in the car. We’re going to go home and talk to your parents.” And he was a nice guy, really nice guy.

I can honestly say I can’t recall him ever arresting anybody. I mean, we rode in the squad car a lot. He would escort us home because he would talk to our parents. And most of the time, we weren’t really doing anything really terrible. Most of it was raiding somebody’s apple tree or something like that. Or being really loud or running up and down the alley or whatnot, and some people who were trying to sleep—because you know, people worked different shifts and he’s like, “You know this person sleeping over here. You’re just really trying to get on their last nerve, aren’t you?” We’re like, “Well, maybe.” “Come on. Let’s go home and talk to your parents.” And he’d tell the parents, he’s like, “You know, it’s nothing bad. They’re just running around a little bit and visiting Mrs. So-and-so’s apple tree and you know she doesn’t want anybody in her yard, so…  And it’s just messing with her. This apple tree’s down at the other end of the block where people say you can have the apples, but they’re going in her yard, jumping her fence, climbing her tree, so…” He said, “Just talk to them. I’ve talked to them. You talk to them.” So nothing major.

William K. “Corkey” Finney

Chief of Police

Growing up in the Rondo neighborhood there was an old cop that we all knew, Skally, Officer Skally. Tall, skinny, big nose, big-eared Italian guy.  Bill Skally.  And, he was just a nice guy, I mean he was a no-nonsense guy, but he would talk with you. Skinny green little uniform.  But, he could run, he ran like a deer. And you know, so they’d say to him, ”Hey, Skally, whap cop.” Pretty soon he’d run along side you. “Ah, where you goin? Thought you could outrun me, huh?” And so he would take you to your parents and you got duly punished.

 

Melvin Henderson

Retired Dean Metropolitan State University

Then it was interesting, too, because we had a police department in Saint Paul that there was some officers that also looked out for the kids too. I remember this one cop by the name of Skally, people may have talked about him.  But, I remember one time we were hiding behind these cars throwing rocks at cars and he happened to catch us and, so, he sat us down and talked to us for, oh, close to about an hour. We didn’t throw any rocks at cars after that, but he was just very good with kids, yeah.

Wilbert Dugas

Instructor Walker West Music Academy

Skally was respected because he didn't arrest anyone, if it was a youth crime he would take you to your mother's house and talk like a human being. So did Jimmy Mann1, all the police in our neighborhood would do that then. But Skally was white and he would talk to the kids as he was on his break eating his donuts, him and his partner. And it was a community thing. It was more like he was one of us than he might have lived on the outskirts somewhere.