YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Several black officers worked for the Youngstown Police Department in the 1970s, but they weren’t welcomed by everyone on the force.
“You would walk into the elevator and they would just turn their back on you, they would actually face the wall,” said retired Chief Bob Bush.
Because of this, Bush and other black officers in the department founded the Black Knights Police Association as a way of fighting racism on the job.
“Study, get promoted, start pressing for things like more police officers, minorities on the job,” Bush said.
The Black Knights recruited Delphine Baldwin-Casey, now retired, to the department in 1978. She was able to achieve the rank of detective sergeant.
She said being black on the force was hard, but being a woman was even harder. Male officers often tested her limits.
“Homicides and gory scenes that I saw in my first year that you would have to be on the job actually five years to see,” Baldwin-Casey said.
Toxic attitudes toward women in the department and community really upset her. So, she created the Family Services Investigation Unit, which deals with domestic violence.
“We got a call and a man said he beat his wife because she spent too much money. My partner would say, ‘Well I agree, I would have done the same thing,'” Baldwin-Casey said. “So, my fight was now I have to protect them from being abused by the judicial system, starting with the police.”
In 2004, the department had another first — a black chief.
It’s the last part of that title that Bush wore most proudly.
“I never took the position of being the black chief,” he said. “I had to take the position of being chief of the department.”
Baldwin-Casey hopes all young officers take time to learn about the department’s past so Youngstown can continue to move forward.
“If you don’t know your history, you’re doomed to repeat it,” she said.
Both Baldwin-Casey and Bush say there is still progress to be made in the department.
Youngstown has never seen a black female chief or high ranking commanding officer. They hope that can change in the coming years.