Law enforcement agents are tasked with protecting communities, but throughout history, we’ve seen mistrust between certain groups and the police.
A museum in Washington, DC hopes to strengthen relations by highlighting the history of law enforcement and having open dialogues about its future.
This badge, these sunglasses, and this nameplate belonged to a pioneer in law enforcement and civil rights. Lucius Amerson was the first African American sheriff elected in the deep south since reconstruction.
Senior Director of Exhibits and Programs Rebecca Looney tells us, “Before that, a largely African American population in Macon County was not able to vote for their sheriff”.
Looney works at the National Law Enforcement Museum. She says Amerson was an Army veteran who became sheriff of Macon County, AL in the late 1960’s following the passage of the Voting Rights Act. She says many saw his election as a sign of progress for black Americans fighting for equality and against police brutality.
She says, “It’s a big step forward. We say law enforcement needs to reflect our communities”.
Sheriff Amerson’s story represents a defining moment in law enforcement history. Today, police departments nationwide acknowledge that recruiting and maintaining a diverse force is still a challenge.
Recent headlines have focused on the Black Lives Matter movement and the lack of trust between police and the public.
Craig Floyd, CEO of the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund, says he hopes the museum can play a part in easing those tensions.
“We are going to have thoughtful, important conversations between the public and law enforcement right here in the National Law Enforcement Museum.”
The museum hopes to share the stories of Sheriff Lucius Amerson, as well as the stories of men and women of all races, who have given their lives in the line of duty, will help visitors better understand the vital role diversity plays in keeping our communities safe.