A History of African Americans in Law Enforcement

African American Police Officers were appointed to Police Departments in the late 1860’s:

1867: Selma, Alabama

1868: Jackson, Florida

1870: Houston and Galveston, Texas  

1870: New Orleans, Louisiana had 177 African American Officers and three of five Police Board members were African American.

April 12, 1870: Officer William Johnson of Jacksonville, Florida becomes the first recognized African American police officer killed in the line of duty.

1875: Bass Reeves was appointed as the first African American Deputy U.S. Marshal

1916: Georgia Ann Robinson became the first African American woman police officer.  She served in the Los Angeles Police Department.

1928: Dr. Louis Tompkins Wright is the first know African American Police Surgeon.  He later became President of the NAACP Board of Directors

1941: William B. Lindsay became the first known African American State Trooper, hired by the Illinois State Police.

1966:  Sheriff Lucius Amerson was one for the first elected African American Sheriffs.  He served as Sheriff of Macon County, Alabama.

1972: National Black Police Association was chartered

1976: National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executive (NOBLE) was founded.

1988: Willie L. Williams becomes one of the first African American Police Commissioners.  He served in Philadelphia and subsequently became the first African American Police Commissioner of Los Angeles Police Department in 1992.   

Approximately 58,000 African American Officers work in US Police Agencies today*

* BJS Law Enforcement Management And Administrative Statistics (LEMAS), 2013.
Information provided by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Museum


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