Police promote first African American to supervisory position
By Matthew Woodson, The Optimist
In a ceremony at the Law Enforcement Center last Friday, the Abilene Police Department promoted two of its officers and handed out 19 awards to other officers for their work in the field, including the Life Saving Bar and the Police Medal of Valor.
The afternoon’s highlights were the promotions of Sergeant Keith Shackleford to the rank of lieutenant and Detective Will Ford to the rank of sergeant.
Ford’s promotion marks the first time an African-American has been promoted to a supervisory position.
Assistant Chief of Police Jim Berry said several African American police in the past could have held such a position but decided for various reasons not to accept a promotion. Ford was different, however, and felt compelled to change that trend.
“Will stepped up and said, ‘It’s something I want to do. It’s what I’m being led to do,’” Berry said. “And we’re very proud he did.”
Ford said he was honored by the promotion but does not think his race and promotion mark any significant change in the department. Instead, he said he hopes it can inspire younger officers to realize they can advance within the ranks.
“The people who already work here know what the opportunities are, black or white,” Ford said. “But maybe some kid at school or in college may have doubts about what they can do, what they can accomplish. Hopefully they can look at this situation and know that all things are possible.”
As a detective, Ford appeared at homicide scenes, interrogated suspects and even went to court as a witness.
Sergeant Ford will now be heading up patrols on the north side of Abilene, responding to distress calls and helping instruct other officers in the field.
Lieutenant Shackleford said he felt honored but humbled to be promoted and spoke glowingly of all the officers who came before him.
“I think of all the people that had this position before I came along – fantastic people,” Shackleford said. “They had so much knowledge and so much experience. They gave so much to me and to my career, and now I get to turn around and get to help other people that way. That is truly, truly awesome.”
Shackleford’s new responsibility will be to work with the newest officers in the department, instructing them and helping develop their skills.
“You shouldn’t ever stagnate – you should always keep going down the road,” Shackleford said. “That’s my job. Keep them going down the road.”