Reporter: Elder, Walt.
In this WSB newsfilm clip dated June 29, 1973, civil rights leaders Reverend Joseph Lowery and Reverend J. D. Grier join Atlanta police chief John Inman in a press conference encouraging African Americans to apply for available positions as police officers.
The clip is divided into three segments. The first segment begins at a press conference, where Reverend Joseph Lowery, vice chairman of Atlanta's Community Relations Commission, an organization functioning as a liason between City Hall and African Americans city residents, notes that only one hundred twenty-one African Americans have been hired in the Atlanta police department in the past year. He remarks that the disparity between black and white officers on the police force will never be eliminated if the rate of hire for African American remains the same. Lowery also notes that more than two hundred eighty-one white officers have been hired in the past three years, a number that is greater than the total number of African American officers on the force. Speaking on behalf of members of the Commission, Lowery emphasizes that their position does not demand a reduction in the number of white police officers, but rather serves as an urgent call to increase the hiring of African American officers, which, Lowery adds, are necessary for effective law enforcement and public safety in the Atlanta community. Next, Reverend J. D. Grier proposes a doubling of efforts to hire more African Americans, and pledges to place one hundred African American candidates among the one hundred seventy-two vacant officer positions. Next, Atlanta police chief John Inman expresses his disappointment in the number of African American applicants seeking employment in available patrolman positions. He appeals to prospective recruits by emphasizing that work as a patrolman is an important service to the Atlanta community, and remarks that the police department needs more African American applicants for the positions that are available.
The second segment of the clip is b-roll footage that includes shots of several officials gathered behind the dais where Lowery, Grier and Inman are seated. The third segment of the clip includes assorted silent shots of the press conference and its preparation, taken from different locations.
As with most Atlanta city departments in the early 1970s, the Atlanta police department was slow to integrate, and inadequate hiring and promotion practices left the city with a police force that was vastly underrepresented by African American officers. Reports of police brutality in black neighborhoods underscored the department's unpopularity with African American residents. Atlanta's Community Relations Commission attempted to initiate an affirmative action program throughout Atlanta's city agencies; however, the police department failed to implement these practices, and remained sharply divided along racial lines. Police chief John Inman exacerbated the bureau's tensions by replacing high-ranking African American department officials and demoting members of the Afro-American Patrolman's League who had participated in a discrimination lawsuit against the department.
In an attempt to facilitate affirmative action within the police department and better represent the city's African American population, mayor Maynard Jackson reorganized the city's law enforcement divisions, and with a new Atlanta city charter, created a public safety department that superseded the authority of the police department. In doing so, Jackson effectively eliminated police chief Inman's ability to control hiring and promotion. Jackson's intervention greatly accelerated the integration of the Atlanta police force, although personnel shortages and ongoing disputes over the development and maintenance of a racially balanced, merit-driven police bureau continued to challenge the city well into future decades.
Title supplied by cataloger.
The Civil Rights Digital Library received support from a National Leadership Grant for Libraries awarded to the University of Georgia by the Institute of Museum and Library Services for digital conversion and description of the WSB-TV Newsfilm Collection.
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Cite as: WSB-TV newsfilm clip of civil rights leaders Joseph Lowery, and J. D . Grier with Police chief John Inman as he announces efforts to recruit more African American policemen, Atlanta, Georgia, 1973 June 29, WSB-TV newsfilm collection, reel 1947, 5:34/07:14, Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Awards Collection, The University of Georgia Libraries, Athens, Ga, as presented in the Digital Library of Georgia.