Md. Remembers Baltimore’s First African-American Top Cop, Bishop Lee Robinson

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Bishop Robinson
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Alex DeMetrick has been a general assignment reporter with WJZ...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ)—He wasn’t only Baltimore’s top cop, he was the city’s first African-American police commissioner. Bishop Robinson died Monday at age 86.

Alex DeMetrick has more on this remembrance.

Symbols of mourning are up above the front doors of the Baltimore police headquarters named for Bishop Robinson.

To achieve that honor, “I remember all the trials and tribulations, the good and the bad times.  Times when I wanted to give up,” Robinson once said.

In 1952, African-American officers walked beats only in black neighborhoods.

Black cops were not allowed to drive patrol cars.

Climbing ranks during changing times eventually brought Robinson to the top of the department.

Then Mayor William Donald Schaefer appointed him police commissioner in 1984.

Robinson became Baltimore’s first black commissioner.

“The profound respect of people throughout the black community because he represented someone who had broken a barrier,” said Kweisi Mfume, former congressman and NAACP president.

When Schaefer was elected governor, he appointed Robinson to another tough job: Secretary of Public Safety and Correctional Services, just as Maryland’s aging prisons were filling up.

“An unprecedented amount of growth in the prison population, so he was dealing with all kinds of overcrowding issues,” said state police spokesman Greg Shipley.

Shipley worked with Robinson in those difficult days.

“He said, ‘Son, find a job nobody else wants to do and do it well.’  And he said, ‘You’ll never be out of work,’” Shipley recalled.

“He was always very, very cognizant of the fact he could not fail in anything that he did because in doing so, he’d be letting down the hopes that a lot of people carried,” Mfume said.

Robinson died from Alzheimer’s at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Towson.

Funeral arrangements are still pending.

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