Identifying Cincinnati’s first African American police officer was more like an investigation than research. In a Fox 19 interview in February 2020, Stephen Headley, reference librarian at the Cincinnati Public Library, points to a July 1884 Commercial Gazette publication that states, “One colored gentleman, Mr. Hiram Carroll, has been appointed on the police force. This is the first appointment of a colored man ever made on the regular force of this city.”
If he ever actually served as a police officer, the time was brief, because according to press clippings, he was fired in August for being three-quarters of an inch too short. No pictures of Carroll have been found.
In another interview for the Fox 19 story, retired Cincinnati Police Lieutenant Stephen Kramer, who worked at the Greater Cincinnati Police Museum, said, “Henry Hagerman was believed to be the first Black Cincinnati police officer.”
Because the state shut down the entire Cincinnati Police Department due to corruption scandals, most of what is known about the department’s African American history before 1886 comes from Wendell Dabney‘s book, “Cincinnati’s Colored Citizens” published 40 years later.
Dabney’s research says Hagerman was an officer in 1884. But in photos, he is wearing a badge that predates any existing badge going back to 1886. To confuse the matter more, the Commercial Gazette newspaper wrote, “Henry Hagerman was sworn in yesterday as a special policeman,” not in 1884, but 1885.
Identifying Cincinnati’s first African American firefighter was more straightforward but still a bit confusing. According to the Cincinnati Fire Museum, Herbert Banes (with an “s”) joined the Cincinnati Fire Department in 1955 and served for 10 years.
He then worked as a fire captain at the Pacific Missile Range and later served as command fire chief in the Republic of Vietnam until the fall of Saigon in 1972. According to most local media, Bane (no “s”) died in July 2019 and a procession of Cincinnati Firefighters marched from Bond Hill Academy to the Church of the Resurrection on California Avenue in his honor.
Nonetheless, many thanks to all three gentlemen for paving the way for Cincinnati’s African American first police and fire!
Firefighting History – Cincinnati Fire Museum (cincyfiremuseum.com)
Cincinnati’s first African American police officer may not have been (fox19.com)
First Cincinnati African-American firefighter laid to rest (fox19.com)
The First 28, graciously sponsored by the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, celebrates Black Cincinnatians who were the first in their fields. Each day during Black History Month, we will celebrate athletes, artists, business leaders, civil rights activists, educators, physicians and politicians.
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