Baltimore's first African-American police commissioner Bishop Robinson dead at 86

BALTIMORE - UPDATE (4:30 p.m.) -- The first African-American Police Commissioner in the history of the Baltimore Police Department died Monday, a department spokesman said.

"I'm so sorry that he died," Baltimore City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke said in a statement. "He broke the racial barriers in the police department and he did it with strength and great dignity. He was a very strong leader in that department and very highly respected. He went on to be involved in many other areas of civic life as well. He will be truly missed."

Bishop L. Robinson died at the age of 86. He served as commissioner from 1984 to 1987 and later served A Secretary of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services from 1987 to 1997.

"When Commissioner Robinson joined the police department in 1952 the role and scope of African American officers was severely restricted," Baltimore police spokesman Lt. Eric Kowalczyck wrote in a release. "African American officers were not allowed to patrol white neighborhoods or use patrol cars. During his career the United States saw the advancement of the Civil Rights movement, opening the door for Commissioner Robinson to advance in rank.

"His ascendancy to command the Baltimore Police Department is a testament to his perseverance, character, and dedication to duty," the release continued. "Fighting through a culture that was in the midst of changing, Commissioner Robinson gained the respect and admiration of his peers and subordinates."

Robinson was one of the founding members of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives. The Annex Headquarters Building at Fayette and Presidents streets is named in his honor.

"We are saddened by the loss of Commissioner Bishop Robinson, he was our Jackie Robinson." said retired Baltimore police Det. Kenny Driscoll.

Driscoll runs the website

"He broke color barriers in one of America's toughest careers, for one of America's best police forces, the Baltimore Police Department, we were all proud to have served for him, and sorry to see him go," Driscoll said.

Baltimore officials expressed their condolences to the Robinson family, toasting his service to city.

"Commissioner Robinson was a pioneer in the field of public safety and Baltimoreans benefited from his tireless efforts to improve our city," City Council President Bernard "Jack" Young said in a statement. "His successes inspired countless men and women to dedicate their lives to public service.

"I enjoyed the privilege of working alongside Mr. Robinson and I was extremely proud of his career of service, which was showcased last February during a dedication ceremony for a public justice institute at Coppin State University that bears his name," the statement continued. "The institute stands as a tribute to his enduring legacy."

Councilman Carl Stokes added, "Although he led a lengthy career representing Baltimore's finest, the fact that he was an African American leader meant he faced many barriers, adapted and overcame.

"We have lost an able statesman whose wisdom, experience and proactive leadership will be dearly missed at a time when cities like ours could benefit from his wisdom and expertise," Stokes said in a statement to the media.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Stay with ABC2 News as we continue to update this story.

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