(ANNAPOLIS, Md.) -- Planning a celebration some say is long overdue, a consortium of community groups and leaders announced Wednesday that they will honor the 85 black police officers who have served in the Annapolis Police Department since the department was integrated in 1960.
The theme of the ceremony, to be held Dec. 7 at the Stanton Community Center, is "Lest We Forget." It will include the unveiling of a plaque, to be housed in the Banneker Douglas Museum, that lists the names of the black officers who have served on the force.
Government citations from Gov. Parris N. Glendening, County Executive Janet S. Owens, Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski and Mayor Dean L. Johnson will be given to the officers or, if they have died, their relatives, said Carl O. Snowden, an organizer of the event.
"This allows us as a community to look at this milestone and use it as a barometer to see how much progress has been made from 1960 to the present," said Snowden, a former city alderman and now special assistant to the county executive .
"We went from no African-Americans serving on the Annapolis Police Department to the chief of police being African-American. The department is more professionalized, more diverse and more reflective of the entire community."
The 133-year-old department has been beset with racial tension over the years. In 1984, the city agreed to increase minority hiring and promotions to settle a discrimination suit by the Black Officers Association. At the time, 10 of 95 officers were black. Today, on a force of 115 officers, 31 are black, four are Hispanic and one is Native American.
Chief Joseph S. Johnson, who joined the force in 1991 after serving in the Baltimore and Washington police departments, became the city's first black police chief in 1994.
Alderman Ellen O. Moyer, chair of the city council's public safety committee, called the recognition being given the officers past due.
"We don't say thank you enough to the people who give us their dedication every day," she said.
Snowden pointed out the coincidence that the ceremony honoring the black police officers will be held on the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The ceremony will be sponsored by the Anne Arundel County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, RESPECT, the Stanton Community Center, We Care and Friends, the Blacks of the Chesapeake Foundation and the Martin Luther King Jr. Awards Committee.
It will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. and is free to the public. Call the Stanton Center at 410-295-5519 for more information.
(iSyndicate; The Baltimore Sun; Nov. 22, 2000) Terms and Conditions: Copyright (c) 2000 LEXIS-NEXIS, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights Reserved.