Remembering a pioneer of the NYPD

Robert H. Holmes wasn’t the first African-American hired by the New York City Police Department; that would be Samuel J. Battle, initially rejected by the NYPD in 1910 and then accepted in 1911, serving almost 40 years.


 Holmes joined the NYPD after Battle, appointed to the 38th Precinct in Harlem in 1913. 

He served only four years. On August 6, 1917, he was shot and killed by a burglar he’d chased into the hallway of a tenement at 14 West 138th Street. Struck five times, Holmes died at the scene.

“The dead policeman was known and feared by every criminal among the 70,000 negroes in Harlem, and was the hero of the law-abiding element, ” The New York Times wrote the next day. “. . . when word spread that Holmes had been shot, the flat houses of the vicinity poured out crowds that choked the street, and eventually had to be dispersed by the reserves.”

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3 Responses to “Remembering a pioneer of the NYPD”

  1. Queens Crapper Says:

    His grave is in Mount Olivet Cemetery in Maspeth, Queens, and is quite touching.

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    Thanks for the info. I forgot to add that the PAL named a youth center after Holmes in 1936, and 127th Street and Eighth Avenue. Mayor La Guardia spoke at a dedication ceremony. Not sure it still exists though.

  3. Derek Wright Says:

    Great information! I served on those same streets and knew nothing about this brother. I will pass it along.

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