America’s First Black Female Officer
There was nary a role for women in law enforcement prior to the turn of the 20th century, but the first women to find their niche in the field ended up making a great impact on not only their communities, but also in history. Georgia Ann Robinson was one of these women. She was the first Black female police officer to be hired by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), and history suggests that she is the first Black female police officer to ever serve in the United States.
An avid community servant, Robinson was approached by a recruiter for the LAPD in 1916 and she first worked with the department as a volunteer before becoming a fully-fledged officer in 1919. Her first post with the LAPD was as a jail matron. Jail matron was historically the first role for women in law enforcement, and in the late 19th and early 20th century, they typically fulfilled the role of a modern social worker. They were tasked with caring primarily for the needs of female inmates and delinquent children that were brought to station houses, whether they be under arrest, or homeless in need of assistance. While they worked in jails and police stations like the male officers in the department, they did not have arresting powers.
But Georgia Ann Robinson’s legacy extends much further than that of a jail matron; her passion for children’s and women’s welfare heavily influenced her role in the LAPD and the community at-large. During her career as an officer, Robinson worked as an investigator in juvenile and homicide cases and helped to establish a much-needed women’s shelter—aptly named the Sojourner Truth Home—in Los Angeles.
Unfortunately, Robinson’s law enforcement career was cut short when she was blinded by an inmate while performing duties as a jail matron, which forced her to leave police work behind. She continued her work with the Sojourner Truth Home, however, and significantly expanded her community outreach when she ultimately partnered with the NAACP in the fight to desegregate the Los Angeles school system. Robinson also maintained a positive perspective on her experience as a law enforcement officer, despite her career’s rather sudden and tragic end: she was quoted by reporters of the time saying that she did not regret her time in law enforcement, or the incident that left her blind. For Robinson, being a law enforcement officer was about the community she served over all else.
Black Trailblazers in Blue is created in partnership between the National Law Enforcement Museum and the National Black Police Association to celebrate the triumphs of African American leaders in Law Enforcement.