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5 Startling Facts About the First Black Police Officers in Atlanta

1. A Step Closer to Equality

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In 1962, Black officers were now allowed to arrest all whites, no matter their social status. If they were engaged in criminal activities, they could be apprehended. At this time, the use of one-person patrol cars was expanded.

2. With Great Power Comes No Respect or Authority

In 1948, the first Black officers were: Claude Dixon, Henry Hooks, Johnnie Jones, Ernest Lyons, Robert McKibbens, John Sanders, Willard Strickland and Willie Elkins. These men were proud to be on the force but they had no power, respect or real authority in their new roles. This new opportunity brought discrimination from within the department and from the community itself.

They could not arrest whites, ride in patrol cars, or use police headquarters. They first began duty on April 3, 1948 by patrolling Auburn Avenue. The eight carried out their police operations at a nearby Y.M.C.A.

3. Claude Everett Mundy, Jr.

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In 1961, the first Black officer was killed in the line of duty. According to Odmp.org, Mundy went into a two-story building trying to track down a burglary suspect. He knocked on the door of an apartment and asked the resident to open the door. The door opened and a barrage of gunfire came at him. His partner came back for him, but Mundy died from his wounds on Jan. 5 before EMTs could arrive.

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4. A Little Progress But Not Much

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In the first seven years of the experiment, Black officers had to wait their turn to have actual power. According to Atlantapd.org, 1955 saw a steep decline in crime. In fact, major crimes — including murder — fell to 7 percent. This year was monumental for Black officers because Howard Baugh and Ernest Lyons become the first African-American police detectives in the APD. However, in this 7-year span there were only 15 Black officers on the force.

5. Token Origins

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Atlanta Mayor William B. Hartsfield  pushed for the integration of the city’s police force for political reasons, not ethical ones. By the 1940s, the African-American vote in the city became a major factor in winning or losing an election. And Black leaders in prominent communities like Auburn Avenue knew this. They demanded that Black officers be part of the police force. Hartsfield hired eight Black police officers in 1948 and in return he got the Black vote.

Source: atlantablackstar

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Written by PH

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