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Lexington Police Dept. recognizing first Black police officers who served in the city

Published: Feb. 24, 2021 at 3:51 PM EST
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - In honor of Black History Month, the Lexington Police Department is recognizing the city’s first Black police officers.

Robert Bell and Jane Christy were hired to patrol Douglass Park for ten weeks in the summer of 1918. Although they were employed for a brief period of time, they paved the way for generations to come.

“A part of my legacy is to trying to bring back what was lost,” Detective Robert Terry said.

Detective Terry is the historian for the Lexington Police Department. He walks through Douglass Park trying to uncover a rich history that started here more than a century ago.

“Policing was different during those times. There was a wide divide between men and women and African American and white officers,” Detective Terry said.

In 1914, Robert Bell and other prominent African Americans living in Lexington pressured the city to create a park.

“They worked hard. They came up with about a 43-acre plot in the west end over here on Georgetown Street,” Detective Terry said.

Shortly after, the city needed a policeman and police matron to patrol the park. Robert Bell and Jane Christy were chosen among many applicants. Both were well known and influential in the community.

Born in Fayette County in 1853, Bell was a successful horseman, betting and training commissioner. His reputation earned him the nickname, “Senator.”

Christy was born in Cynthiana in 1869. She married a horse trainer and later became a nurse tending to the sick and elderly.

Patrolling Douglass Park is just one of Bell and Christy’s many accomplishments.

“Their job duties were just to maintain and make sure everybody was getting along. The community was different back then, so what their actual role was, I couldn’t tell you. I wish I knew those answers,” Detective Terry said.

Detective Terry has a picture of Bell, but he’s still looking for one of Jane Christy.

The Lexington Police Department is trying to gather more information about the lives of Robert Bell and Jane Christy so they can add it to the department’s archives. They ask anyone with information about these trailblazers to please come forward.

Following 1918, other Black officers were hired to patrol the park every summer. A few years later, Prather Walker, Susan Tab, and James Paige became the city’s first Black officers to work full time.

Detective Terry is also working on a book about the history of the Lexington Police Department and the lives of the city’s first Black officers.

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