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article imageFirst Black Police Officer in Green Bay

By Sadiq Green     Aug 28, 2009 in Lifestyle
There have been many racial firsts in America’s history. The US Supreme Court, established in 1789, waited 178 years before the Senate confirmed its first Black Justice. Now, Green Bay is welcoming its black police officer.
Last year, a great deal of Americans celebrated the election of its first African-American president. That accomplishment took 232 years.
There have also been multiple racial firsts in States and cities throughout America and another was reached earlier this week. The city of Green Bay, Wisconsin has a Black police officer for the first time in the 152-year history of its Police Department. Solomon Ayres started the first phase of a 17-week training regime to become a Green Bay police officer.
The 31 year-old Ayers realizes race will be part of the equation as he does his job. He says he expects some resistance from both Black and White residents, but thinks his life experiences will help defuse difficult situations and make him open to different points of view. Ayres says,
"I've thought about the fact that I am probably going to get a lot of resistive tension from both sides, both black and white. Black people will think that I'm kind of being a traitor, and white people will probably call me racist. It's the same side of a different coin. White cops get called racist by black people, and I'm probably going to get it from the white people."
Ayres who has lived in Green Bay since 1987, said the idea of becoming a police officer really set in after he talked with Green Bay Police Chief Jim Arts while making a complaint about a traffic stop with another law enforcement agency. After the complaint was resolved, Arts and Ayres talked, and the discussion turned to a career in law enforcement.
"He kind of pushed the idea toward me. I was like 'No thanks …' at first. But after I came in and I took a tour and went on a ride-along and learned more about the job, it became really desirable for me. It seemed like something I would really like to do and really be good at."
Fran Jonet, president of Green Bay’s Police and Fire Commission, says hiring a Black recruit is a long-awaited step in the right direction and says that race played no role in Ayres' hiring and that Ayres was among the top candidates on all the hiring tests. Jonet, a retired officer said the commission is aware of the department's racial disparity, which is mostly attributed to the fact that they're not filling out applications.
"Believe me, we recruit nationwide. We don't know why we can't get them in. I wish I had an answer on how to make that happen."
Ayres takes the race conversation in stride. He says he knows it's his work ethic that got him a chance to serve and protect. Ayres contends,
"It kind of goes back to the whole affirmative action thing, and people will probably look at me and say 'Well, he just got the job because he's Black. As far as I'm concerned, I worked my butt off to get where I'm at. That's the way I want it looked at. If people want to take it as an historical event; they're going to … regardless of what I want them to believe or not. I worked really hard to get where I'm at, and I want them to see that factor of it.”
Census figures show that African-Americans make up about 2.5 percent of Green Bay’s more than 98,000 people. Its Police Department as 177 officers, including 15 women, four American Indians or Alaska natives and one Hispanic.
More about Race, Affirmative Action, Green bay
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