How a Three-Day Symposium Became a Leading Organization for African Americans in Law Enforcement
In September 1976, a symposium was called by the Police Foundation and the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA), with the Joint Center for Political Studies (JCPS), to address the issue of crime in low-income urban areas of the United States. What was intended to be three days of lectures, seminars, and conversations, birthed an organization that continues to pave the way for the success of Black law enforcement leaders: National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, or NOBLE for short.
NOBLE logo. Image Source
The initial symposium brought together 60 of the brightest, most ambitions minds in Black law enforcement to Washington, DC, and they would become NOBLE’s founding members. They came from 24 states and 50 major cities to exchange their views of the critically high rate of crime in Black urban communities. They were prepared to discuss the socio-economic conditions that lead to crime and violence, and raised questions about relevant issues such as fairness in the administration of justice, police community relations, the hiring and promotion of Black police officers, and the unique problems of the Black police executive. When the conversations got started, it was soon decided that Black law enforcement executives could have a significantly more effective impact upon the entire criminal justice system if they had a unified voice and an official organization to support them. With this decision, the original agenda for the symposium was all but scrapped, and a new agenda was created in the favor of creating NOBLE.
Founding member of NOBLE, Bishop Robinson (left). Image Source
Founding member of NOBLE, Sheriff Lucius Amerson (center). Image Source
Founding member of NOBLE and Tuskegee Airman, Gywnne Peirson (right). Image Source
Among the ranks of these founding officers were figures like Sheriff Lucius Amerson of Macon County, Alabama, the first Black sheriff elected in the deep South after Reconstruction; Bishop Robinson, Baltimore’s first African American police commissioner; and criminologist and celebrated Tuskegee Airman, Gwynne Peirson. These leaders were among the most prestigious of their time and continue to have a lasting mark on the history of law enforcement. Today the organization boasts nearly 60 chapters and represents over 3,000 members worldwide, who represent chief executive officers and command-level law enforcement officials from federal, state, county, municipal law enforcement agencies, and other criminal justice practitioners. They continue their commitment to equity in the administration of law enforcement, and to serve as the conscience of law enforcement, advocating for justice through action.
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.