African Americans in the Baltimore Police Department
Wytte
African Americans in the department

POLICE WORK BEGUN BY COLORED WOMAN
Mrs. Whyte, First Negro Member of Force, Assigned To Northwestern
Baltimore Sun 4 Dec 1937

Qualifications For Post Are Cited
By Commissioner Lawson

Mrs. Violet Whyte, Baltimore's first colored member of the Police Department, last night took over her duties as policewoman, assigned for the moment to the Northwestern district. William P. Lawsan, Commissioner of Police, in a statement outlining her qualifications for the post, said last night that after her work in Northwestern was finished she would be available for duty elsewhere in the city.

Appointee Lauded

Policewoman Whyte is "one of the best-prepared women among the colored people of Baltimore for the work she is to do," Commissioner Lawson said. He mentioned that she is the daughter of the late Rev. Daniel G. Hill, for many years pastor of Bethel AME (African Methodist Episcopal) Church. Lanvale Street and Druid Hill Avenue, and that among her brothers and sisters are a Vice-President of Howard University and an instructor at Lincoln University, an instructor at Princess Anne Academy, and another instructor in Southern College.Policewoman Whyte is 40, married and the mother of four children Her husband George Whyte, has been a principal in the public schools of Baltimore for the last ten years, she lives at 623 North Carrollton Avenue.

Various Posts Named

Among the posts she has held, or now holds, which fit her for her job, Commissioner Lawson named the following: Teacher in the School of Christian Education. Member, advisory board, Civic League. President, Intercity Child Study Association, Teacher, Department of Parent Education. Executive secretary, Parent-Teacher Federation, Policewoman Whyte is an active member of the Negro State Republican League.

lady law
“Lady Law” Leaves The Force After 30 Years

But Only Formally: as Volunteer She Still Helps All

7 December 1967

 “Lady Law” as Lieutenant Violet Hill Whyte is known of hundreds of persons in West Baltimore, has formally retired from the Baltimore Police Department.

But Lieutenant Whyte, the soft-spoken slender woman who made headlines as the first and Negro police woman to join the force 30 years ago, (7 Dec 1967) still comes to her office at 6:00 A.M.) every morning.

She organized the distribution of Thanksgiving baskets to needy families throughout the city, and is now planning a Christmas party for 4000 children at the Royal Theatre on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Holiday Project Goes
She councils as many as 125 persons a month who come from the city and county to see her and in addition, works a regular 8 hours a day as a member of the Western District force.

Although she officially retired December 3, Lieutenant Whyte will continue those, and other activities on a volunteer bases until the end of her “Holiday” projects.

So she continues to collect Christmas toys in laundry baskets in the police station, and to gather clothes for prisoners and their families. She is so awakened at all hours of the night by those who want, her help, or sometimes they call about the “Good News” she said, referring to a woman who phoned at 1:30 A.M. because she was, “so glad” about the birth of her first grandson.

She would described by retired Judge Charles E. Moylan Sr. of the supreme bench of Baltimore as a “one-woman-police-force, and a one-woman-social-worker combined” she has worked narcotics cases, homicides, assaults, sexual abuse, and robberies during her 30 year career.

She is Known for Bravery

Once she played the part of a “drunkard, cigarette smoking, dope addict” to help bring about the capture of a narcotics gang. For that she received a Federal citation, and was invited to appear before the Keauver committee investigating criminal rackets.

Lieutenant Whyte, rarely carried a gun, in one incident she declined an escort as she went to help a 12 year-old-girl being held by an armed man.

She said she enjoys testifying in court, and disliked child abuse cases more than any other assignments

I Get Emotionally Involved

“It’s with the children that I find I get emotionally involved,” she said “Emergencies always seem to happen before 6:00 AM” she said, adding she never needed a sleeping pill to go back to sleep when she was awakened, and never missed a day at work on account of illness, or otherwise.

Lieutenant Whyte, the only Female Lieutenant of the 46 women on the police force, she was born in Washington, and came to Baltimore as a young girl. Her father the Rev. Daniel G. Hill was a Methodist Minister (Bethal AME), and her mother a teacher.

Has Five Children

She graduated from Douglass High School, and Coppin State College. She was married to a public school teacher, who went on to become a principal himself, and who is now dead. She has five grown children.

“Retirement from one’s job doesn’t mean actual retirement” she said. She is spoken in every State in the country, and expects to continue her speaking career. She is also thinking of taking a job in the community service field.

But after 30 years of work on countless crimes, and a lifetime of participating in church, and civic activities, she has one more wish – Time to grow flowers at her house on Elsinore Avenue.

A testimonial fete will be held at 7:30 P.M. today in her honor at the Blue Crest North

Sgt Lieutenant Violet Hill Whyte
Whyte, Black Police Pioneer, Dies

22 July 1980

Lieutenant Violet Whyte who in 1937 became the first black officer to be appointed to the city’s police force always said “I’m not afraid of work” The lieutenant who died last Thursday at the age of 82 proved during her 30 years on the police force, she meant what she said. Lieutenant Whyte often worked as many as 16 hours a day collecting clothing to the inmates and Thanksgiving baskets for the needy, and counseling to like what youngsters and their families in addition to handling cases that ranged from homicide, to child abuse. The late juvenile court Judge Charles E Moylan Sr. once called her a, “One-Woman-Police-Force and One-Woman-Social-Worker Combined!” Known as, “Lady Law” to her coworkers, the former police Lieutenant, and social activists never carried a gun. Born in Washington, she was the daughter of the Methodist minister, “My father taught me young, not to fear death, nothing has helped me as much in police work!” she said once, after helping the capture a narcotic gang, and impersonating a drunken, cigar smoking, dope addict on one of the most of the chilling of winter nights! For this action she was invited to appear before, The Kefauver committee, which was investigating organized crime in 1952. She moved to Baltimore as a child and was a graduate of Douglass a senior high school, and Coppin State Teachers College. For about six years, she taught grammar school in Frederick County, then marrying thee late George Sumner Whyte, a city school principal she stopped teaching, and raised four children. Two of them were adopted. In 1937 she became the first black police officer in the city of Baltimore and was assigned to the Northwestern District. In 1955 she was promoted to the rank of sergeant, she was in charge of the policewomen, and transferred to the newly opened Western District Because of the uniqueness of her occupation at the time she was asked to appear on The TV game show “To Tell the Truth” in 1962 and channel thirteen’s “The Brent Gunts show”. In October 1967 just too months before retirement she was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant. She once told a reporter that of all the cases she ever worked to dislike child abuse of the most “It’s with the children that I find I get emotionally involved,” she said After retiring from the police force in December of 1967, she became a field work supervisor for Planned Parenthood of Maryland and “continued visiting inmates and nursing homes with her sunshine bag of gifts and toiletries,” her daughter, Esther C Bailey, said yesterday “I belonged to everything in Baltimore!” Lieutenant Whyte one said, when questioned about her numerous affiliations. She was appointed by both governors McKeldin, and Tawes to the board of managers of Boise and village in a Cheltenham. She was also on the Board of Directors of provident hospital a board member for the former Maryland safety council, a member of the speakers’ bureau of the women’s Christian temperance union, a member of the Lambda Kappa Mu sorority, the Charmettes, a social group. The Phi Beta Sigma Wives, the F.E.W. Harper Elks Lodge No 429 and the Matinee Ensemble, a civic association The in addition to her daughter in Baltimore she is survived by two other daughters grace and Daniel of war Simpson and Grace Virginia of Waynesboro Pennsylvania, a sundial rustle of Eden Maryland three sisters Esther hill Isaiah and grace hill Jake up and Lea hill Fletcher all of Petersburg a Brother Joseph N hill of New York City and five grandchildren. Services for the lieutenant will be held at noon today at Bethel AME church 1300 sold 110. The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of a memorial contributions to the acute stroke unit care of Dr. Elijah Sanders, provident hospital, 2600 Liberty Heights avenue


African Americans in the Department

A historically Irish American dominated police department, African Americans were not hired as police officers until 1937 when Violet Hill Whyte became the BPD's first African American officer.
The first African American male officers Walter T. Eubanks Jr., Harry S. Scott, Milton Gardner, and J. Hiram Butler Jr. were hired in 1938, all of whom were assigned to plainclothes. In 1943, African American officers were finally allowed to wear police uniforms, and by 1950, there were fifty African American officers in the department. Patrolman Henry Smith Jr. became the first African American officer to die in the line of duty in 1962, when he was shot to death breaking up a dice game on North Milton Avenue in east Baltimore. The department itself had not fully integrated until 1966.

Prior to 1966, African American officers were limited to foot patrols as they were barred from the use of squad cars. These officers were quarantined in rank, barred from patrolling in White neighborhoods, and would often only be given specialty assignments in positions in the Narcotics Division or as undercover plainclothes officers. Further, African American officers were the target of racial harassment from their Caucasian coworkers and African American citizens in the communities they patrolled. During this time African American officers were subject to racial slurs from white co-workers during roll call, and encountered degrading racial graffiti in the very districts/units they were assigned. During this time period, two future police commissioners of Baltimore, Bishop L. Robinson and Edward J. Tilghman were amongst Baltimore's African American police officers.

During the civil rights movement, trust between the department and the largely African American city were strained. Racial riots due to police brutality were occurring all over America, and the racial mistreatment at the hands of several White officers labeled Baltimore as a trouble spot for violence. The police force at the time was also under study of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) as the department was severely troubled at the time. The IACP report showed the BPD to be the most corrupt and antiquated in the nation with an almost non-existent relationship with Baltimore's African American community. This lack of relationship resulted in African American citizens being subject to both excessive force from police officers, and retaliation from community members for interacting with city police officers. The changes demanded in the report occurred almost overnight with the hiring of new police commissioner Donald Pomerleau. Pomerleau himself was a prior-service Marine who authored the IACP report committed to changing the department and improving relations with Baltimore's African American community.

After Pomerleau's hiring, the department made reforms to improve the relations with Baltimore's growing African American community, including ending the segregationist practices within the department. In 1968, racial rioting in response to the murder of Martin Luther King Jr. broke out across Baltimore's African American neighborhoods. As few African American officers held rank within the department during the riot the white-dominated police department found itself at odds against the African American community. In 1971, the Vanguard Justice Society was founded, an organization representing the rights and interests of the department's African American officers. Throughout the 1970s, more African Americans advanced in the department with Black officers holding the positions of district commanders and chief of patrol. In 1984, in a political move by Mayor Donald Schaefer to give the majority African American population more power in the city, Bishop L. Robinson was named as Baltimore's police commissioner. Robinson was the first African American police officer to command the department which was previously controlled by Irish American and Italian American police officers. Robinson was also the force's first Black officer to command the Eastern District and the Patrol Division. The department also redefined several of its racial policies in direct response to riots in Los Angeles and Miami as a means of avoiding similar racial tension in a city with a larger percentage of African American citizens.

Currently, the department is administered by Commissioner Anthony Batts and Deputy Commissioner of Patrol Garnell Green, both of whom are African American.

During Martin O'Malley's administration as mayor, the department had become 43% African American. While progress has been made to improve the department's relationship with Baltimore's now majority African American community, improvements are still being made to the department which for several years has been subject to criticism for its treatment of African American citizens. Police community relations have remained strained with the war on drugs that has plagued several African American neighborhoods in East and West Baltimore and coincidentally enough, many of the most despised officers in several of Baltimore's African American neighborhoods are also African American.


A historically Irish American dominated police department, African Americans were not hired as police officers until 1937 when Violet Hill Whyte became the BPD's first Female African American officer hired by the force.
When Violet Hill Whyte, the first black to be appointed in 1937 to the city's police force, died in 1980, The Sun in an editorial said, "She worked in an all-white, male-dominated institution and won its respect through hard work and human understanding." Whyte, was 82 when she died, she explained her success this way: "I'm not afraid of hard work." During her 30 years on the police force, she proved that time and time again by working 16- to 20-hour days, often starting at 6 a.m. She collected clothing for prison inmates and needy people, made holiday baskets for the needy and counseled delinquent children and their families. In a Afro American news paper report they wrote of her Baltimore's first Black Policewoman, Sgt. Violet Hill Whyte, 88 died July 17 1980 at the Keswick nursing home where she had been since November 1979. Born in Washington, DC Sgt. Whyte was the daughter of the late Rev. and Mrs Daniel Hill. She was a graduate of Douglass High School and Coppin Teachers College. When she joined the force, she was assigned to the Northwestern District. (The old Western District) Her promotion to Sergeant took place in October 1955 and in the following February she was transferred to the Pine Street station. When the new Western station was opened in August 1959 she was named to head its detail of police women. Sgt. Whyte never wore a uniform and was seldom armed, she worked on a variety of cases on narcotics, robbery, homicides, child abuse, and sexual delinquency. During her 30 years on the force, Sgt. Whyte never missed a day from work and was willing to go out and work at all hours because she recognized the problems in 1963 AFRO clipping Sgt. Whyte stated "I'm not afraid of work, my first case was to investigate a homicide and it was successful. Sgt. Whyte stated she found it easy to overcome racial antagonism. She received special training in police work in various seminars and universities. she served as commission to study problems of delinquency. The first African American male officers were Walter T. Eubanks Jr., Harry S. Scott, Milton Gardner, and J. Hiram Butler Jr. were hired in 1938, all of whom were assigned to plainclothes. In 1943, African American officers were finally allowed to wear police uniforms, and by 1950, there were fifty African American officers in the department. Patrolman Henry Smith Jr. became the first African American officer to die in the line of duty in 1962, when he was shot to death breaking up a dice game on North Milton Avenue in East Baltimore. The department itself had not fully integrated until 1966. Prior to 1966, African American officers were limited to foot patrols as they were barred from the use of squad cars. There is currently a "Violet Hill White Way, Baltimore, MD 21201" in Baltimore to honor Lt. Whyte. These officers were quarantined in rank, barred from patrolling in White neighborhoods, and would often only be given specialty assignments in positions in the Narcotics division or as undercover plainclothes officers. Further, African American officers were the target of racial harassment from their Caucasian coworkers and African American citizens in the communities they patrolled. During this time African American officers were subject to racial slurs from white co-workers during roll call, and encountered degrading racial graffiti in the very districts/units they were assigned. During this time period, two future police commissioners of Baltimore, Bishop L. Robinson and Edward J. Tilghman were amongst Baltimore's African American police officers. During the civil rights movement, trust between the department and the largely African American city were strained. Racial riots due to police brutality were occurring all over America, and the racial mistreatment at the hands of several White officers labeled Baltimore as a trouble spot for violence. The police force at the time was also under study of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) as the department was severely troubled at the time. The IACP report showed the BPD to be the most corrupt and antiquated in the nation with an almost non-existent relationship with Baltimore's African American community. This lack of relationship resulted in African American citizens being subject to both excessive force from police officers, and retaliation from community members for interacting with city police officers. The changes demanded in the report occurred almost overnight with the hiring of new police commissioner Donald Pomerleau. Pomerleau himself was a prior-service marine who authored the IACP report committed to changing the department and improving relations with Baltimore's African American community. Since Pomerleau's hiring, the department made reforms to improve the relations with Baltimore's growing African American community ending the segregationist practices within the department. In 1968, racial rioting in response to the murder of Martin Luther King Jr. broke out across Baltimore's African American neighborhoods. As few African American officers held rank within the department during the riot the white-dominated police department found itself at odds against the African American community. In 1971, the Vanguard Justice Society was founded, an organization representing the rights and interests of the department's African American officers. Throughout the 1970s, more African Americans advanced in the department with Black officers holding the positions of district commanders and chief of patrol. In 1984, in a political move by Mayor Donald Schaefer to give the majority African American population more power in the city, Bishop L. Robinson was named as Baltimore's Police Commissioner. Robinson was the first African American police officer to command the department which was previously controlled by Irish American and Italian American police officers. Robinson was also the force's first Black officer to command the Eastern District and the Patrol Division. The department also redefined several of its racial policies in direct response to riots in Los Angeles and Miami as a means of avoiding similar racial tension in a city with a larger percentage of African American citizens. Currently, the department is administered by Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III and Deputy Commissioner of Administration John P. Skinner, both of whom are white and Deputy Commissioner of Operations Anthony E. Barksdale who is African American. During Martin O'Malley's administration as mayor, the department had become 43% African American. While progress has been made to improve the department's relationship with Baltimore's now majority African American community, improvements are still being made to the department which for several years has been subject to criticism for its treatment of African American citizens. Police community relations have remained strained with the war on drugs that has plagued several African American neighborhoods in East and West Baltimore and coincidentally enough, many of the most despised officers in several of Baltimore's African American neighborhoods are also African American.  

Bishop L Robinson
Our first African American Police Commissioner
Robinson Tilghman
Bishop L. Robinson - Edward Tilghman

Bishop L. Robinson (born January 16, 1927), was the first African American police commissioner of Baltimore, Maryland who was Commissioner of the Department between 1984 and 1987. A graduate of Douglass High School, Coppin State University and the University of Baltimore school of law, Robinson joined the department in 1952, earned the rank of sergeant in 1964, Lieutenant in 1969, Captain in 1971, Major in 1973, Lt. Colonel in 1974, Colonel in 1975, Deputy Commissioner of Operations in 1978 and Commissioner in 1984. Robinson also represented the Baltimore Police Department in the founding of NOBLE, a national organization of African American police officers from various American cities in 1976, and rose to the rank of commissioner in 1984. For Robinson's first 14 years in the department until 1966, African American officers were quarantined in rank, not allowed to patrol in white neighborhoods, and barred from the use of squad cars during a time period where the Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam War, and Black Power movements took place. Robinson was elevated to the command of Commissioner in a department long dominated by Irish American officers and briefly dominated by Italian American officers as a means of giving African American officers control of the department as Baltimore City became solidly Majority African American. Following his service as Baltimore Police Commissioner, he served as Secretary of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services from 1987 to 1997 in the Cabinet of Governors William Donald Schaefer and Parris Glendening, and subsequently as Secretary of the Maryland Department of Juvenile Justice in the Cabinet of Governor Parris Glendenning from 2000 to 2003.

"What am I up to now? Not very much," says Bishop L. Robinson, 80, the city's first African-American police commissioner. "I spent 50 years in government and started my career with the Baltimore Park Police. I then moved on to the city Police Department and climbed every rank -- I didn't miss a step -- until Mayor William Donald Schaefer appointed me commissioner in 1984." When Schaefer was elected governor, Robinson followed him to Annapolis, where he served two terms as public safety director, and then one term during the administration of Gov. Parris N. Glendening. He was state juvenile secretary when he retired in 2003. "I do a little consulting for Affiliated Computer Services. It's a national company that handles red light cameras, speed cameras and E-ZPass," he says. "And I'm enjoying it. I get a chance to travel and meet people in other cities. And guess what? They're having many of the same problems as Baltimore. Some of them are even looking for police commissioners, but I tell them I'm not looking and I'm not in the market," Robinson says with a laugh. A big honor came his way this summer when the city's newly renovated police headquarters at East Fayette and President streets was renamed the Bishop L. Robinson Sr. Police Administration Building. "My wife, Ruthie Ann Robinson, and Oliver Walker, the oldest living Baltimore City African-American police officer who retired 36 years ago, spearheaded the effort to have the building named after me," he says. "Imagine a building with a cop's name on it. I drive by every day just to make sure that the sign with my name on it is still there," he says, laughing. Robinson and his wife enjoy traveling, they just returned from a trip to the Bahamas. Currently, they are keeping busy, raising a new dog -- Louie, a standard poodle -- and keeping Angelique, a Shih Tzu, from suffering fits of jealousy."Actually, as far as my life is concerned, everything is going real well," Robinson says.

 

One of our first African American Police Officers
John Ellis Bo Blackwell
John Ellis "Bo" Blackwell

John Ellis "Bo" Blackwell, one of the first African-Americans to be appointed to the Baltimore Police Department, who overcame racism and enjoyed a 30-year career with the department, died Oct. 30 of respiratory failure at Sinai Hospital. The Ellicott City resident was 83. "John was a pioneering African-American officer and he kept us focused. We stand on his shoulders," said Edward V. Woods, who served as police commissioner from 1989 to 1993. "Thank God for people like John who always gave his all. We are a better community for it and the department is now a healthy and representative mixture of people," said Mr. Woods. "It is now representative of all the people, and in the old days, it wasn't that way." The eldest of five children, John Ellis Blackwell was born to Gladys Blackwell Gray in St. Michaels. He spent his early childhood on the Eastern Shore before moving to Baltimore, where he attended city public schools. In 1947, Mr. Blackwell, who had dropped out of school, joined the Marine Corps. He served for several years before taking a job at Bethlehem Steel Corp.'s Sparrows Point shipyard. While working at the shipyard, Mr. Blackwell and several friends decided on a whim to take the written examination for the Baltimore Police Department. Of that group, he was the only one selected to become an officer on Sept. 13, 1950. By 1950, there were only six black police officers on the force — the first three having been appointed in 1938 — who were kept in plainclothes for five years to "investigate Negro vice," reported The Baltimore Sun in a 1969 article. The article also observed that African-American officers weren't "particularly popular in their old neighborhoods." "We could only work in black communities and couldn't drive police cars. White people wouldn't let black officers arrest them, even though we had full police powers," recalled Mr. Woods. "We were excluded to one area of the city." But Mr. Blackwell and his fellow African-American officers soldiered on, working to prove themselves in order to get ahead while enduring station house jokes laced with racial overtones and racial epithets. Integrated patrol cars didn't arrive until the mid-1960s, and it took a picket line of black officers in 1963 at City Hall and police headquarters to integrate previously all-white units such as the crime lab and K-9 Corps. "I first met John in 1959, who was a patrolman in the Central District," recalled Mr. Woods. "In those early days, John helped keep me focused. He kept saying, 'You have a place here and you'll be a good law officer.' He gave me a certain stick-to-it-a-tiv-ness," said Mr. Woods. "He was an inspiration in those really very stressful times. He'd also say, 'Be proud of what you're doing.'" Mr. Blackwell later became an administrative assistant, Mr. Woods said, to Maj. Clarence Roy in the department's community relations division. He retired in 1980. "While serving as a police officer, he obtained his GED and received an associate's degree in 1971, graduating on the same exact day his daughter received her bachelor's degree in Washington from George Washington University," said a granddaughter, Candace N. White, a lawyer who lives in Manhattan, Kan. Mr. Woods said that he and Mr. Blackwell lived several blocks away from each other. "John and his family were like a second family to me. He was a great joy," he said. Mr. Blackwell had lived in Walbrook Junction, Pimlico and Pikesville before moving to Palm Coast, Fla., with his wife, the former Geraldine Cordelia "Gerri" Taylor, whom he married in 1949. In addition to being an all-around handyman who liked home improvement projects, Mr. Blackwell was an avid fisherman. He and his wife also enjoyed boating and for more than 30 years lived several months of the year aboard the Gerri-Jac, their 46-foot houseboat moored at the Baltimore Yacht Basin on Insulator Drive and at the Crescent Marina in Fells Point. Mr. Blackwell was a founder in 1975 and later served as commodore of the Dolphin Cruising Club, Baltimore's only black yacht club, which was part of the Federation of Black Boaters based in Jamaica, N.Y. In 1978, the couple were instrumental in the chartering of Flotilla 19 of the Coast Guard Auxiliary in Baltimore. He was the flotilla's first commander and attained Coast Guard Auxiliary retired status. Mr. Blackwell also liked to take cruises and traveled by steamship to Bermuda and the Caribbean. "Bo could sometimes seem quiet and reflective, but he was always up for a good time and enjoyed life with gusto," his granddaughter said. "He was never one to hold back an opinion and advice or turn down an offer of crabs and a cold beer." His wife of 54 years died in 2003, and in recent years, he lived with his daughter in Ellicott City. "He lived an amazing life. He was born of a young mother, raised in a rural community by his grandparents, and against all odds, became a public servant, earned a college degree, traveled all over the world and lived to know his great-grandchildren," said his daughter, Dr. Jacalyn Blackwell-White, a pediatrician. Mr. Blackwell was a member of Palm Coast United Methodist Church in Florida. He was also a member of St. John Baptist Church, 9055 Tamar Drive, Columbia, where services will be held at 2:30 p.m. Sunday. In addition to his daughter and granddaughter, Mr. Blackwell is survived by two brothers, Charles Gray and Joseph Gray, both of Baltimore; another granddaughter; and three great-grandchildren.  

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Baltimore Police honor sergeant who served amid segregation

Dixon remembered as a trailblazer for blacks in the police force

James Dixon joined the Baltimore Police Department in 1954 as a black officer in an era of widespread racial prejudice. Police posts were segregated and blacks were not allowed in patrol cars. On Tuesday, a quarter-century after he retired as a sergeant, Dixon returned to the department for a ceremony to honor his service and thank him for his role in helping the department through a time of social change. Dixon, 77, was given a BPD hat and coffee mug. "I think today was really good for him because I don't think he realized how far the Police Department has come," said Derrick Dixon, James' son. "So for him to come out here and see a lot of Afro-American officers and commissioners, I think it blew his mind. "I think now he realizes a lot of the things he did for the Police Department and a lot of first-time things he did for blacks and realizes what it led to," Derrick Dixon said. The segregation in the police wasn't anything new for James Dixon, after his service in the military. He was one of hundreds of Marines from Montford Point, an all-black boot camp in North Carolina, to receive a Congressional Gold Medal last month. "This was something I never expected, although the Tuskegee Airmen got theirs, so we shouldn't have been very far behind them," James Dixon said. "This is something I will cherish for the few days I have left in my life. But this is something I'm going to have framed and hung on the wall." Dixon served in the Marines from 1944 until 1946, but his placement there was itself a stroke of luck. Drafted by the Navy, Dixon was willing to go to prison rather than join a unit where he was forced to serve food or swab decks like other blacks who were in the Navy during that era. "I [said] that if I was put in the Navy, I was going AWOL because I wasn't going to serve any food or scrub any decks," Dixon said, teary-eyed. "Had I been put in the Navy, I would be in jail now. I'm not a servant." Much has changed since then, but the department has not forgotten Dixon's contributions, said Acting Commissioner Anthony E. Barksdale. "He's stood strong through all of it. And look at him. Still shining; still standing strong," said Barksdale. "He's giving me advice and telling me stories that are making me happy that I'm wearing the same uniform that he used to wear."

 

Equal discipline promised for police Black, white officers treated differently, some say

August 15, 1996
By Peter Hermann

Responding to complaints that black Baltimore police officers are treated more harshly than their white colleagues when charged with misconduct, the city's police chief is vowing to make changes to ensure "equal discipline for equal infractions." Last week, members of the City Council and several current and former black officers accused Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier of tolerating a double-standard in how black and white officers are disciplined. Yesterday, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke agreed that the department has a problem and put Frazier on notice that he needs to do more -- and do it quickly. "It has not been dealt with as good as it should be," the mayor said. "But I am convinced that the commissioner is working on solutions so it will not be a problem in the future. I think there is a problem over there, but it's one that can be solved." In a 90-minute interview Tuesday, Frazier said he will cooperate with a City Hall probe into why black officers are far more likely than white members to be fired or severely disciplined, in many cases for committing similar offenses. "The key is that discrimination will not be tolerated in any form," Frazier said, responding for the first time to harsh criticism leveled at him at a council hearing last week. The commissioner said he already has instituted many reforms, including increasing the number of black officers who investigate misconduct, and plans to do more to assure his department that discrimination is not acceptable. At the council hearing, several current and former officers -- some fired for misconduct -- testified that white officers facing similar charges were only reprimanded. The hearing was prompted by a report by former Officer Donald Reid, who found that of the 139 officers fired since 1985, 99 were black and 37 were white. Blacks make up 35 percent of the 3,100-member department. Reid's lengthy report circulated in the department before Frazier was hired in 1994. Three years ago, he wrote to then-Commissioner Edward V. Woods and complained that nothing was being done. Yesterday, Reid said that once again his complaints are being ignored. He charged that Frazier is taking credit for reforms instituted by his predecessor and said Frazier and Schmoke knew of the problems two years ago. Reid said a higher percentage of blacks has been fired under their administration than in the previous decade. Frazier "has simply not cared about the problem since day one," Reid said. "He had ample time to resolve the problem."

Sgt Lieutenant Violet Hill Whyte
Lt. Violet Hill Whyte
Sun Paper Articles

December 1937 - African Americans were not hired as police officers until 1937 when Violet Hill Whyte became the BPD's first Female African American officer hired by the force.
9 July 1938
- Four African American men have been apointed to the Baltimore Police Department William P. Lawson, Commissioner Police, announced yesterday.
27 January 1947 - Patrolman James H. Butler, Jr., who Saturday (25 Jan 1947) was promoted to sergeant, is the first African American to attain that rank in the Baltimore Police Department.

8 Oct 1965 - Bernard J. Schmidt, police missioner yesterday promoted Lt. Dennis P. Mello, 52, to captain, the first African American to attain that rank in the Baltimore Police Department
10 Oct 1965 - Baltimore's first African American police captain, Dennis P. Mello, has attained his new rank and new position as head of the Westem police district because he is a Negro. Rather than as an exercise in reverse racial discrimination, his promotion may be viewed as an enlightened community experiment, and...
6 Oct 1967 - Despite efforts to recruit African Americans for the Baltimore police force, figures released yesterday by the Police Department show that only 6.8 per cent of the force is African American.
12 Febuary 1968 - More than half of the discharged servicemen accepted into the Baltimore city Police Department in a three-week recruitment drive are African American, Major Lon F. Rowlett, department personnel director, said Saturday.
13 March 1968 - Police departments across the nation are showing interest in the Baltimore Police Department's use of mobile vans to recruit African Americans, according to Ralph G. Murdy, deputy commissioner of administration.
16 Febuary 1969 - Black police: men in the middle - The African American policeman in Baltimore is the man in the middle. He is scorned by some in the black community as "Just another cop." He is looked down upon by some white officers as "Just another African American."

POLICE INFORMATION

Copies of: Your Baltimore Police Department Class Photo, Pictures of our Officers, Vehicles, Equipment, Newspaper Articles relating to our department and or officers, Old Departmental Newsletters, Lookouts, Wanted Posters, and or Brochures. Information on Deceased Officers and anything that may help Preserve the History and Proud Traditions of this agency. Please contact Retired Detective Kenny Driscoll.

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NOTICE

How to Dispose of Old Police Items

Please contact Det. Ret. Kenny Driscoll if you have any pictures of you or your family members and wish them remembered here on this tribute site to Honor the fine men and women who have served with Honor and Distinction at the Baltimore Police Department. 

Anyone with information, photographs, memorabilia, or other "Baltimore City Police" items can contact Ret. Det. Kenny Driscoll at   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  follow us on Twitter @BaltoPoliceHist or like us on Facebook or mail pics to 8138 Dundalk Ave. Baltimore Md. 21222