‘They stayed through it all’: How Orlando’s first Black police officers persevered without radios, guns or patrol cars

Video: ‘They stayed through it all’: How Orlando’s first Black police officers persevered

ORLANDO, Fla. — Lt. Richard Arthur Jones and Officer Belvin Perry Sr. patrolled the streets of Parramore without guns, patrol cars or radios to call for back up.

All Orlando Police Department’s first two Black officers had were nightsticks, handcuffs and each other.

It was 1951, more than a decade before the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

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The pair paved the way for other officers of color to join the force.

Jones was first Black officer hired as well as the first Black officer to reach the rank of sergeant and lieutenant.

“When the kids started talking to me about my dad being first and my dad being a cop that I realized that he was pretty special,” his daughter Vicki Jones Brooks said.

But she said while her dad put on a brave face at home, pioneering on the force was anything but easy.

“White policemen did not want him on the force,” she said.

Jones wasn’t allowed to patrol the streets alone, so a few months later, the department hired Perry Sr.

“The first thing that goes to my head is how blessed I was to have a father like that,” his son, former judge Belvin Perry Jr., said.

The pair could only patrol on foot from Conley and Parramore east on Church Street to Division armed with just a nightstick and handcuffs. They were prohibited from arresting a white person and weren’t given radios to call for back up.

“If they were trying to apprehend someone and were having any kind of difficulties, they had to depend on the residents to help and they had to depend on the entrepreneurs to make the calls for them,” Perry Jr. said.

Perry Jr. set the scene as to what his father and Jones faced on a routine Friday night, walking the streets of Parramore as people were out carousing at local juke joints.

“They couldn’t pull a gun cause they had no gun, so they had to use what was between their two ears to diffuse crowds, to deal with drunks, to deal with people who had weapons, knives and some guns and yet still they were able to come home every night,” Perry Jr. said.

Brooks and Perry Jr. can tell their fathers’ stories decades later, but back when they were serving on the force, it was a secret pain that no one close to the dynamic duo even knew existed.

“He did not want us to be fearful and so he always made us think that he was happy and everything was going well,” Brooks said.

The pair are now remembered as police pioneers who paved the way for others to serve.

“It’s changed 100% from the way we have equal opportunity, everyone has the same testing, everyone goes through the same process,” Orlando Police Department Officer Kathleen Beasley said.

A monument in tribute to the pair now stands just steps away from where both officers once lived.

WATCH: Orlando police, local resident team up to clean monument honoring first two Black Orlando pol

“Their children and family was left home not knowing if they were going to come back, that’s why I think so deep about this,” Washington Shores resident Macenne Isom said.

The legacy of their bravery lives on as an example not only to their children, but the whole department.

“It would have been easy if my dad and RA Jones had failed to say ‘look we tried and we failed,’” Perry Jr. said. “But they stayed through it all.”