BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – Walk inside the Birmingham Police Department’s (BPD) headquarters and you’ll find a little museum that tells you the history of the BPD.
The museum features pictures on the walls, patches in cases, faces that hold a place in history, such as Leroy Stover.
“Being the first black hired at a white establishment, my expectation was very low,” retired Deputy Chief Stover said. “I never envisioned that I would be anything other than a patrol officer, but as it worked out, God was good. I was able to move up with the help of some good white officers.”
Stover’s story has already filled one book, but his memoir is a tell all about what happened behind the shield when Birmingham hired its first black police officer in 1996.
“They know they treated blacks horrendous over the years, and they didn’t want to see black invade their so called ‘all white’ police trust, so I was treated realty bad on my first day,” Stover said.
Lasting was way of life for those who suffered through segregation in the south.
“I already knew how the police were because growing up in the 30s, 40s and 50s I experienced racism at its worst,” added Stover.
He witness that first hand in the 1960s on the streets of Birmingham.
“During that time I was a truck driver, and the demonstrations were going on I would be stopped in traffic, and I used to watch the demonstrators being beaten by police water hoses put on them and that sort of thing,” Stover said.
Yet after being persuaded by his boss to take the test and getting the highest score that day, Srover answered a higher calling to do what he had never planned to do.
“The news came out that announced that I had been accepted. I realized then that this was God’s doing. It wasn’t my doing,” Stover said.
A man of faith himself, Birmingham Police Chief A.C. Roper was a direct beneficiary of the door Stover opened.
“We were on the wrong side of history, and so when the color barrier was broke by [Stover], to me, it’s much greater than what Jackie Robinson may have done breaking the color barrier in baseball and all of the other patriots that have gone before us,” Roper said.
Stover’s first day on the job was a bit of a shock.
“One guy told me, ‘They put you with the worst Ku Klux Klan there was in order that he might run your away,’” Stover said. “They were forced to hire a black, but that didn’t mean they had to keep you.”
Stover says that his first partner made him even more determined to stay the course.
“I tried my best to be a good example, not only for blacks who came behind me, but for the white officers I was working with,” he commented.
2014 WIAT-TV CBS42