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IMPD honors African-American trailblazers for Black History Month

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- On Monday, IMPD, the Minority Police Officers Association and Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett highlighted contributions of African Americans to the police force.

In honor of Black History Month, officials unveiled a new display housed at the City-County Building that honors dozens of African-American trailblazers; including the first African-American men to work for the department back in 1876.

The display includes dozens of posters, pictures and newspaper clippings honoring those like Benjamin Thornton, who was one of the first black detectives on the force; Emma Baker and Mary Mays, who were the first black women police officers; and George Sneed, the first African American to be promoted to the rank of lieutenant.

“It’s a sense of wonder, joy and a sense of awe when I look at this display case and see these amazing black women and men who made a mighty sacrifice, who contributed heavily to making the police department very successful, “ IMPD Captain John Walton said.

Walton, who is also the President of the Minority Police Officers Association says it important the contributions like that of Benjamin Thornton are remembered as an example of how diversity can strengthen a city.

“I think it’s true for all of us, whether it’s an issue of race or an issue of gender, or equality, it’s important that we have diversity, it’s important that everyone feels included,” he said.

A large amount of credit for the display belongs to Patrick Pearsey, the unofficial IMPD historian who researched many of the subjects. Pearsey also wrote a book on the life of Benjamin Thornton.

“I think it gives hope to people who may want to join the department now to know that you can rise to the top,” Pearsey said.

The display will be up until at least the end of February, but Captain Walton says it could possibly stay up longer.