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.
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.