The Kansas City Police Department came into existence in 1874 and employed its first two Black officers the same year. The first Black KCPD police officers were William Davis and Lewis Tompkins. Davis served on the force for 15 years before retiring in 1889. He died in 1891 at 48 years old from liver complications.
Tompkins did not stay with the department as long as Davis did. He left just a year after the department formed to become a janitor at Lincoln High School, and became active in Black democratic politics. He was a retired captain with the military and was known for training students in military-style drills to instill discipline.
As KCPD grew, so did the number of African Americans in the department who served in a variety of roles including patrolmen, chauffeurs and clerks.
In the early 1900s, Black officers comprised a small, but influential part of KCPD. In 1920, there were 11 Black policemen and six Black detectives in the state of Missouri. Of those, eight policemen and one detective were part of KCPD. In 1951, KCPD employed around 40 African Americans in various positions.
ALL BLACK STATION
In 1907, KCPD divided the city into patrol districts. District 6 covered much of the east side and its station was on Flora Avenue, just south of 18th and Vine, which included predominantly Black neighborhoods and employed all of KCPD’s Black officers.
At this time, Black officers could stop criminals of any race, but had to refer the arrest of White individuals to White officers. The Flora station was abandoned in 1953.
NOTABLE BLACK OFFICERS AT KCPD
Tillman joined force in 1902 and served until his death in 1914. Only one other Black officer served on the force during this time. He was known as one of the bravest men that ever served on the KC police force.
Cornelius “Tug” Carter
In 1930, Carter became KCPD’s first Black sergeant.
In 1945, Allen became KCPD’s first unofficial Black policewoman. She started her career with KCPD as a clerk. During WWII, many police personnel left the department to serve in the military and KCPD needed officers. To combat the need, KCPD appointed Allen as an Acting Policewoman because she was older than the state regulations allowed and could not become a fully commissioned officer.
Rosie L. Mason
In 1954, Mason became the first Black female officer when she began working for the department as a civilian. She wore a badge and carried a gun, but was not a commissioned officer until the police academy began admitting women more than a decade later. She graduated from the academy in 1967. From 1944 to 1983, she held a variety of positions in the department as a janitor, elevator operator and then clerk. Mason was promoted to detective in 1971.
Jordan joined KCPD in 1938 and was employed with the department for more than 10 years. He became the first Black lieutenant before leaving the police force to get involved in politics. The lieutenant rank was done away with in the 1960s.
Jordan served in the Missouri Legislature in 1964 and helped create the Black political group Freedom Inc. Jordan was one of the most powerful politicians in Kansas City before he was murdered in front of his tavern in 1970.
Lieutenant Colonel (Deputy Chief) Clifford Warren
Warren joined KCPD in 1939 as a patrolman. After several promotions, he and his partner, Leon Jordan, became detectives in 1942. Warren was given command of a special investigation unit for African Americans in 1954. In the 1950s, he rose to the positions of detective sergeant, captain and major. In 1956, he was promoted to lieutenant and named administrative aide to the police chief, the highest administrative rank held by a Black officer up to that time. Warren became KCPD’s first Black lieutenant colonel around 1964 and later the first Black chief of detectives. He retired in 1969.
DeGraffenreid joined the police force in 1948 and is credited for changing the rule that prohibited Black officers from arresting White people. He was the first Black detective sergeant and led the investigation into Leon Jordan’s death.
Brooks entered the KCPD cadet class in 1954, where he was the only Black cadet out of 29 in his class.
In 1960, Layton became KCPD’s first Black motorcycle officer. After serving in the U.S. Navy, he enrolled in the police academy, then served in the traffic section for five years. In 1967, he was assigned to Vice as a detective. Layton worked his way up to captain and held assignments with internal affairs, burglary and larceny, and the K-9 unit during his decades of service.
Major Marylyn Brauninger-Stovall
In 1967, Brauninger-Stovall graduated from the police academy and was among six female officers appointed to KCPD in that year. She rose through the ranks to become the first female sergeant, captain, major and unit commander of any race. As commander of the sex crimes unit, she was highly praised for her work and named one of the 100 most influential Black people in Kansas City in 1985, the same year she graduated from the FBI national academy. She retired from the police force in 1993.
Rev. David O. Shipley
Shipley became KCPD’s first Black Chaplain in 1970. He was also the pastor of Second Baptist Church. Chaplains are volunteer positions and appointed by the chief of police.
Girard T. Bryant
Bryant was appointed to the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners in 1965, and is likely the first Black male to be on the board, according to the Kansas City Police Historical Society. Bryant was a longtime teacher and administrator at Lincoln High School and in the Kansas City School District. He was also the first Black president of Penn Valley Community College.
Gwendolyn M. Wells
Wells is the first Black woman appointed to the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners. In 1977, Missouri Gov. Joseph Teasdale appointed her to the board and she served until 1983.
Julia A. Bush
In 1996,Bush became the first Black female deputy chief. She graduated from the police academy in 1976 and became an officer the same year. Bush was promoted to sergeant in 1983 and captain in 1991, and major in 1994. In 1993, she became the first Black female captain to head the homicide unit.
In 2011, Forte was appointed the first Black chief of police and retired in 2017. He joined KCPD in 1985 and later graduated from the FBI National Academy in 1999. Forte has served in law enforcement for more than 30 years and has received multiple awards for his service. He is currently Jackson County Sheriff.
Black Archives of Mid America
Kansas City Police Historical Society
East Patrol Black Officers Exhibit