Film will document Memphis' first African-American police office - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Film will document Memphis' first African-American police officers

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The film's producer, George Tillman, shot the documentary in an attempt to show people the challenges those officers faced and how they overcame them. The film's producer, George Tillman, shot the documentary in an attempt to show people the challenges those officers faced and how they overcame them.
MEMPHIS, TN -

(WMC-TV) - A documentary titled "True Blue Lawmen of 1948" will be released documenting the first year African-Americans were hired as Memphis police officers.

The film's producer, George Tillman, shot the documentary in an attempt to show people the challenges those officers faced and how they overcame them.

Tillman says 1948 was the year a number of white police officers were accused of extreme brutality against Africa-American residents.

As a result, Memphis Mayor Boss Crump held a meeting with members of the black community.

"In a meeting, Mayor Crump asked what they wanted and an African-American woman stood up and said, 'We need black policemen," explained Tillman, who added that those first officers began patrolling Beale Street and Orange Mound.

Even though they wore uniforms, the African-American officers were not allowed to arrest white people.

But even though they wore the uniform they were not allowed to arrest everyone.

"No they couldn't. You know, they had to hold them until a white officer got there, you know, but they couldn't arrest white people," said Tillman.

Famed Civil Right's photographer Ernest Withers was one of those first black officers.

Tillman said it was Withers' sons who encouraged him to do the documentary.

The film features interviews with the wife of Wendell Robinson, one of the African-American officers who rose in ranks at Memphis Police Department.

Walter Winfrey, a former Memphis police director during the 1990s, was also interviewed.

Tillman says the documentary will take viewers full circle from a police department that started with nine black officers, all the way to the present, in which the majority of officers are African-American.

The documentary "True Blue Memphis Lawmen of 1948" will debut with a special screening on February 26 at 7 p.m. at Malco Studio on the Square.

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