Baltimore’s 1st African-American Police Commissioner Laid To Rest

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A sad farewell for one of Baltimore’s beloved top cops who died last week. City and state leaders gathered at Coppin State University to say goodbye to Baltimore’s first African-American police commissioner.

Gigi Barnett reports.

He was called the Jackie Robinson of Baltimore’s police department. They were big shoes to fill, but the city’s first African-American police commissioner, Bishop L. Robinson, did it.

This weekend, friends, family, state and city leaders gathered at Coppin State University to remember and reflect on his life and legacy at the helm of the city’s police force.

“Bishop Robinson had no need of a polygraph. He could measure a person’s character just by looking into their eyes,” said Governor Martin O’Malley.

“We were talking about his loss, and my daughter just looked at me and said, `He’s not dead, Mom. As long as he’s remembered, he’s not dead,'” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

Robinson joined the force back in 1952 as a foot patrolman. It was a time when discrimination against blacks was rampant, both on the streets and in the department.

“I would have loved to have just sat down at his foot and just listen to those stories and listen to the things that he went through and listen to the trials and tribulations that he didn’t allow to derail him,” said current Police Commissioner Anthony Batts.

Instead, Robinson revolutionized the city and state’s police force with new, cutting-edge technology. In the span of his career, he implemented the state’s first automated fingerprint ID system. It caught on nationally.

“If you look around nationally at law enforcement and some of the technology, some of the practices we incorporate, they were Bishop Robinson’s,” said Wendell French, a family friend.

French says Robinson became a trailblazer for all officers.

“He made us believe that we could be just like him and he never let up on us,” French said.

In addition to being the first African-American police commissioner in Baltimore, Robinson was–and still is–the only officer to serve in all three of the department’s bureaus.

Robinson was 86.

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