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Cleveland Black Shield, Black pride in our police force

Bob Ferguson | 5/21/2014, 10:49 a.m.
Their fight for justice and efforts are contributed to the majority of African Americans being on the job today.

Recently, there has been a wave of killing of young Black boys and men which somewhat resembles an all out war against them by both citizens and supported investigations by various police departments across the United States. Many of these killings are senseless which are ruled as justifiable and are now covered under the legal provision of the new “Stand Your Ground Protection Laws” which has more than 26 states participating including Ohio. In 2013, passed House Bill #2003, which outlines a stand your ground provision to kill if you think and say your life was being threatened.

Not only are these laws giving rise to a rash of killing of young Black men, in many instances, the truth and facts are either hidden or swept up under the rug thus exonerating the perpetrator with ‘He was afraid for his life.”

If we have ever needed to support our Black Shield Police Officers Association, it is now.

As with too many of our African American organizations, they all began out of desperation and disparity in treatment from others who seemingly disallowed the fair treatment of Blacks or a practice of overt discrimination.

Cleveland’s Black Shield Police Association formed in 1946 by a small group of officers who came together because of the unfair treatment they experienced in the police department. The association’s first president was an officer by the name of David Beasley.

At that time, it was considered a social club. It provided a place for the Black officers to gather and discuss the various issues they faced since white officers had social clubs that they could not join. In 1969, Cleveland’s shield club was chartered as a nonprofit organization and became one of the oldest Black police organizations in the country.

A lawsuit was filed against the City of Cleveland for discrimination against minorities and, after 5 years, the US District Court approved the Consent Decree. This was the beginning of the hiring wave of minorities. Although Blacks were being hired in 1972, they were in a constant battle for equality with hurdles that still plague the department. President Fred Johnson was the officer who constantly spoke out against injustices in spite of the threats and unfair treatment he received.

Jean Clayton, called the Mother of the Black Shield, was at his side leading the charge for equal rights and hiring and promotion for women. In 1978, the Shield Club became The Black Shield Police Association with its headquarters at 4097 East 131 Street, where it remains today due to the efforts of Fred Johnson and Jean Clayton.

Their fight for justice and efforts are contributed to the majority of African Americans being on the job today. The Association in the ‘80s and ‘90s became entrenched in the Black community and due the help of certain political punch packer such as Councilwoman Fanny Lewis, Odelia Robinson, Councilman John Barnes and others who believed in equality, the Association has became well recognized for being behind the scenes in the political actions in hiring practices and in cases of outright disparities in disciplinary matters where Black officer were oftentimes fired or over reprimanded on the job.