History of First Black Public Safety Officials

Celebrating Black History Month

Heart of Texas Public Safety Historical Center pays tribute to the area’s first black public safety officials.

February 20, 2023


C.F. Franklin

C. F. Franklin (also known as Ofc. Franklin) was the first black Waco Police Officer. Ofc. Franklin began his career as a Waco Police Officer in 1945 and worked for the Waco Police Department for 19 years, before leaving the department in 1964. He was first assigned to Foot Patrol. Officer Franklin was assigned to patrol the black sectors only, and was only allowed to enforce the law within those sectors. In 1950, Ofc. Franklin also played a key role as an undercover officer for a law enforcement operation in Dallas.

Ofc. Bynum -Waco PD Facebook Page, Feb. 1, 2021.

Charles Foy & James Willie Johnson

The first two Black Officers who were assigned to patrol vehicles.  Prior to these assignments, Black Officers were assigned to foot patrol.

The Rev. James Willie Johnson joined the Waco Police Department in 1964 and served 18 years.  Officer Johnson is recognized as the first official Black Waco Police Officer since he patrolled the entire city, including areas which were all white, in a patrol vehicle.  He was promoted to the rank of Sergeant in 1977.

History is being gathered on Charles Foy.


Alice Laverne Cooks Pollard

Alice Laverne Cooks Pollard was the first black female police officer hired at the Waco Police Department.  Officer Pollard began her career at the Department in 1970 after graduating from the Waco Police Academy. After the academy, Officer Pollard worked in the Juvenile Detectives Unit. An assignment in 1977, the Waco Police Department began sending all female officers to the patrol division to give them experience in working patrol, instead of investigations. After that decision was made, Officer Pollard decided to resign and raise her family.

Ofc. Bynum -Waco PD Facebook Page, Feb. 8, 2021, and Feb. 8, 2022

Sherri Kirk-Swinson

Sherri (Johnson) Kirk-Swinson was the first black female sergeant at the Waco Police Department. She started her career in 1980 and worked as a patrol officer for several years. After patrol, Sgt. Swinson moved to the Drug Enforcement Unit, and then on to Personnel and Training before promoting to the rank of Sergeant in 1995. After her promotion, Sgt. Swinson moved back to the patrol division for almost 4 years before returning to the Personnel Department; where she had a direct hand in hiring many the officers over the years. She served several years on the Waco PD Honor Guard Team and received numerous awards before her retirement in April of 2016.

Ofc. Bynum -Waco PD Facebook Page, Feb. 15, 2021 and Feb. 16, 2022


Walter (Buffalo) Napier

Former pro-football star, Walter (Buffalo) Napier became the first black deputy sheriff in McLennan County history. He was hired to work only in the black sections of the county. Napier was assigned to work with the black juveniles, organize youth programs and things of that sort on the afternoon and night shifts. Napier would work with the juveniles and patrolled the “Honky Tonks” to check to see if youth were hanging around these places. In his football playing days, Napier was nicknamed “Buffalo” by team-mates because of his tremendous size, of six feet, six inches tall and 297 pounds.

Waco News-Tribune, Friday, April 26, 1963, Page 1

Bobby Tatum

On May 16, 2016, Chief Bobby Tatum Jr. was officially sworn in as the 7th Fire chief in the 100 year history of the Waco Fire Department and the 1st African American to serve in that role. After 31 years of dedicated service with the Fort Worth Fire Department, Tatum retired at the rank of Deputy Fire Chief  before stepping in to the role of Waco Fire Chief. During his tenure he brought many new innovations and a culture of exceptional community service that still exist today.


Sheryl Victorian

On March 15, 2021, Chief Sheryl Victorian was officially sworn in as the first female and first African American police chief for the city of Waco.  Sheryl has over 30 years of law enforcement experience.  She began her career with the Houston Police Department and has worked in patrol, investigations, internal affairs and training.  Chief Victorian ascended through the ranks of the Houston Police Department, retiring in February of 2021, to accept the Chief of Police position in Waco, Texas.” 

Content for this post added from personal accounts and modified for readability. Readers are encouraged to let us know of other African American men and women who are “firsts” in public safety in the heart of Texas.  We will update this post as we receive the information.