For the first time in North Carolina’s history, African Americans simultaneously hold positions of police chief, county sheriff and highway commander for six of the largest cities and counties in the state.
Danny Rogers, Bobby Kimbrough, Catrina Thompson and Brian James met in Greensboro to celebrate the occasion and honor civil rights activists of the past that made this achievement possible.
The meeting couldn’t have come at a better time and place, occurring during Black History Month and coming on the heels of last year’s protests. According to a Fox 8 report, Police Chiefs from Charlotte, Durham, Fayetteville, Greensboro, Raleigh and Winston-Salem and Sheriffs from Forsyth, Guilford, Mecklenburg, Wake, Durham and Cumberland Counties met at the International Civil Rights Center and Museum on February 1 to pay tribute to the Greensboro four’s sit-in at Woolworth’s lunch counters.
Reflecting on that moment, Greensboro Police Chief Brian James said, “We’ve come a long way, and we still have a long way to go.” Chief Catrina Thompson told Fox 8, “It’s important to highlight the significance of this day and this location and this state, and to couple that with where we are in terms of law enforcement and executive leadership of African Americans here in our state.”
The International Civil Rights Center and Museum is located at the old Woolworth’s lunch counter and drug store, where the 1960s sit-in demonstration took place. In what would become one of many sit-ins around the country, A&T Freshmen Joseph McNeil, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair Jr. and David Richmond refused to leave after they were denied service because of their skin-color, reflecting a turning point in African American history.
Chief Thompson reflected on the past, but also the present – a time when fewer African American recruits are entering the police force due to the stigma surrounding the industry.
“Law enforcement has been used in the past as an arm of oppression toward African Americans and to people of color. To see where we’ve come from to where we are today, I thought was worth highlighting and acknowledging not just for our current times but generations to come…with all the negativity going around with the profession, I thought it would be important for them to see people that look like them in these positions.”