Boston’s first Black Police Officer
Who would have believed that Boston’s first Black officer was discovered and recruited to one of America’s oldest police forces while working as a janitor at the Globe Theater? It was while working as a janitor for the historic Boston landmark, when Horatio J. Homer met a group of influential men who suggested he become a police officer; among them was John J. Smith, who was serving on the Boston Common Council at the time and is credited with securing Homer’s appointment to the police department.
On December 24, 1878, Homer officially became a Boston Police Officer and was sworn in by Police Commissioner Henry S. Russell. He was connected to Station 4 and his primary beat was a guard post at the entrance to the Office of the Police Commission in Boston’s Pemberton Square. On September 11, 1895, Homer passed the civil service examination which allowed him to rise in the ranks of the BPD. The day before his exam, he was profiled in the Boston Daily Globe in which a reporter wrote, “That he will pass the examination there is no doubt, for he is exceedingly well versed in police duties.” Commissioner Augustus P. Martin promoted Homer to Sergeant only a few days later on September 23.
Homer served with the Boston Police Department for 40 years and saw Boston’s police force grow from 746 men to 1,700 within that time. He met every president from Rutherford B. Hayes to Woodrow Wilson, and served as an escort for a number of foreign ambassadors who visited the city of Boston – a perfect role for someone described as having a diplomatic and courteous demeanor. Homer retired from the police department on January 29, 1919 at the age of 70.
In the over 100 years since Horatio Homer’s retirement from the Boston Police Department, his service to the great city has not been forgotten. In fact, he was recently “introduced” to a pair of his own granddaughters, thanks to the hard work of a dedicated Boston Police Department archivist, Margaret Sullivan, and an East Boston officer, Bob Anthony. Maria and Lillian Homer of Somerville, Massachusetts, are two of Homer’s living relatives, and discovered their relation to the historic officer of Boston in 2010. Maria and Lillian’s father–who was born when Homer was 65 years old–died when the girls were teenagers. They knew nothing of their grandfather but a single picture. However, decades later, they were present for the dedication of a community room in the BPD’s new Roxbury precinct which was aptly named for Sergeant Horatio J. Homer.
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.