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 Learn more about KPD at KnoxvilleTN.gov/KPD

Knoxville Police Department Integrated Since 1882

After the Civil War, the Knoxville Police Department made history. It hired the City's first African-American police officer in 1882 - and continued to recruit and hire black officers, even at a time when it was virtually unheard of to have minority representation in the uniformed ranks.

Moses Smith was the first African-American police officer in Knoxville, says Civil Rights pioneer and historian Robert J. Booker. Smith served on the Knoxville police force for several years before being appointed as a federal marshal. Additionally, Smith served on the City's Board of Aldermen in 1874 and again in 1878.

Knoxville Examiner: Moses Smith’s name appears in the June 29, 1878, edition, within a news story discussing “The Colored Schools.” When the story published, Smith was serving on the City's Board of Aldermen. Photo courtesy of the Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection, Knox County Public Library.How rare was Smith's employment as a black police officer in 1882?

Undated photo of KPD Officer John E. MoffettIt was extremely unusual. After the Reconstruction era ended, Knoxville was one of just five cities in the South with African-American police officers in its department, according to Booker. The four other cities were located in Texas.

Unfortunately, there are no known publicly available photos of Smith. But check out Knoxville Examiner front page from June 29, 1878. Smith's name appears within a news story discussing “the Colored Schools.” When the story published, Smith was serving on the City's Board of Aldermen. (Photo courtesy of the Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection, Knox County Public Library.)

The Police Department hired its second full-time African-American police officer, James Mason, in 1884.

During Black History Month, City Blog will be researching and publishing interesting items on how African-Americans served the City - either as City employees, or as pioneers in government positions, or as artists and storytellers, such as writer Alex Haley, whose likeness in a unique statue graces the City's Morningside Park.

And we'll also be publishing rarely-seen photos, such as this undated photo of KPD Officer John E. Moffett.
Police Chief David Rausch says KPD has always placed a high value on hiring police officers who are representative of the community they serve.

Knoxville residents should know that “your Police Department represents you and that we understand and appreciate the cultural differences within our community,” Rausch says.

To see an interview with Rausch about KPD's historic embrace of inclusiveness, click on the video below:

Today, about 9 percent of KPD's employees are minorities. A new 39-member Police Academy class starts its training in February, and more than one-fifth of that class will be made up of women and minorities.

Rausch says further increasing the diversity of the Police Department by recruiting, hiring, training and promoting women, African-Americans, Hispanics and other minorities is a top priority. Hiring police officers who reflect the City's demographics is important, because it helps mutually foster deeper understanding and better cooperation between citizens and officers.

"As we celebrate Black History Month, it is appropriate to recognize the outstanding contributions of the black officers who have served Knoxville faithfully from the 1800s up through today," Rausch said. "Their example of service, sacrifice and commitment to the safety of our community over the years has been an inspiration to all of us."