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Black History Month is a good time to note the special difficulties between African Americans and the police. In Boston, and undoubtedly elsewhere, blacks have been hampered from joining the police force. Even today there are only a few black members of the state police. It was not until the 1950s that Samuel M. Range became the first black trooper and he remained until retirement. At Range’s recent funeral, he was honored for his service in breaking down racial barriers.

In 1984 there was another significant event at the state police level. Lt. Donald E. Callender, a 20-year veteran of the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC), was promoted to captain. Since the MDC no longer exists as such, the magnitude of that event can be easily underestimated.

There was considerable objection to Callender’s promotion on the grounds that it was due to unfair affirmative action. However, it was discovered in 1986 that a white cabal of MDC officers was selling stolen Civil Service exams and would alter exam results for a price. After the prosecution of those involved in such practices, the Legislature decided in 1992 to merge all state law enforcement agencies into one organization, the Massachusetts State Police.

That structural change has not resolved the issue of ethics. State police officers have recently been charged with fraud for accepting compensation for paid details that they did not work. And across the nation, the problem of police violence against blacks has not dissipated.

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