Local history: Dartmouth’s first Black police officer

In 1968, Sinclair Williams (second from the left in the front row) became Dartmouth's first Black police officer. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

After a childhood tragedy, Sinclair Williams spent his life trying to help others

When Sinclair was 15, a disastrous house fire in East Preston destroyed his family home. He rescued his little brother, but the blaze killed his mother and four nieces and nephews. It was a bitter winter night, and he ran a mile barefoot through the snow in search of help.

Years later, his wife disclosed that the tragedy left both physical and emotional scars, as he blamed himself for not saving the lives of all of his loved ones.

When he became an adult, he married a woman named Dolly Glasgow and they soon had a growing family. Poorly educated, he had had to work hard to support them and this, including being a maintenance worker at the Camp Hill hospital in Halifax

He later recalled that there he worked with an elderly Black man who encouraged both him and Dolly to earn better educations. Not long after, he learned that the Dartmouth police force wanted Black men to apply. He was skeptical of his chances, but in August 1968 became the pre-amalgamation city’s first Black police officer.

He was of course skeptical about applying but, on August 1968 at the age 25 , his life was dramatically transformed when he became Dartmouth’s first Black policeman. 

He faced constant racism on the job, recalling insults and harassment from white cops, even as suspects were slamming doors in his face and spitting on him. In court, a judge once called him the n-word, which led to an outcry and apology. Despite the discrimination, he was noted for his high moral standards, and earned a reputation as one of the city’s finest police officers. He told people he was determined not to quit, wanting to leave a path for the Black people who would follow him.

Sadly, a multiple sclerosis diagnosis cut his career short in the 1980s. After his death in May 2014, recognition of his work grew, including his efforts to mentor troubled young students. Today, a scholarship bears his name, with a citation reading: “Sinclair Williams was a trailblazer that lead the way for many of us. We have to continue to make the changes that Sinclair has fought long and hard for. This scholarship will make a huge change in the number of Black individuals into the policing.”   

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