February is Black History Month. A significant percentage of the officers who protect and serve communities throughout North America are black, both men and women, who enjoy a rich history of service. As February is upon us again, Caliber recognizes these men and women who have done so much, so quickly.

Black police officers are first officially recognized (we have no way of knowing about unofficial appointments, or appointments lost to history) in the late 1800s. A timeline at COPS explains that black officers were appointed to the police department in Selma, Alabama as early as 1867. In 1870, Officer William Johnson of Jacksonville, Florida, became the first recognized black police officer to be killed in the line of duty – a tragic distinction, but one that marks Officer Johnson’s service to his community. The first female police officer who was also black was Georgia Ann Robinson, in 1916. In 1941, William B. Lindsay became the first black State Trooper.

Do a search for “the first black police officer in America” and you’ll find several articles about Samuel J. Battle, the first black police officer in New York City. He joined the force in 1911, becoming the force’s first black sergeant (in 1926), lieutenant (1935), and parole commissioner (in 1941). He retired in 1951 as the highest-ranking black law enforcement officer at that time. Battle died in 1966 at the age of 83. He is noteworthy, in particular, because it is an established historical fact that he fought discrimination and prejudice on and off the job to achieve as much as he did.

The legacy of the nation’s black law enforcement officers, as first exemplified by people like Samuel J. Battle, William Johnson, and Georgia Ann Robinson, continues today. According to Data USA, more than 13 percent of police officers (roughly 58,000 people) are black, the second-highest demographic in law enforcement. They are also represented within law enforcement at roughly the same rate as their representation within the country overall (Pew Research puts this figure at 14%, or roughly 47 million people). Black citizens have made great strides in society overall even as their representation in law enforcement has grown apace.

Caliber Public Safety salutes the contributions, service, and sacrifices of the nation’s black law enforcement personnel, both past and present. As law enforcement continues to evolve to meet future challenges, it will do so hand in hand with the significant number of North American police personnel who are black… together with every other race and creed currently serving in the nation’s police forces. February is one month of the year, but the contributions of the nation’s black law enforcement personnel are felt throughout the year, then and now.