1st Black Vegas officer role model ‘for people of any color’

1st Black Vegas officer role model ‘for people of any color’

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Las Vegas was still very segregated in 1946 when Herman Moody became the city’s first black police officer.

He served more than three decades in that role, continuing to mentor officers long after he retired in 1977. Moody died Feb. 25 at his home on the Historic Westside, the heart of the city’s black community near downtown of Las Vegas. He was 98.

Family, friends and police officers will gather Thursday in Las Vegas to remember a man they hailed as a dedicated lawmaker, a mentor to “young people of all colors” and a man of faith.

“I hope he will serve as an icon, an example, a motivating factor for generations to come,” said Dolores Brown, the eldest of Moody’s five daughters.

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department credits Moody with helping improve police standards at a time when there was no police academy and black families were forced to live and work west of the railroad tracks.

Moody was self-taught, reading countless books about Nevada law and the profession. He shared what he learned widely with other officers. But because of the color of his skin, his police work was limited to the Westside, which had clean streets at the time and no running water or sewer lines.

Nearly eight decades since Moody began his barrier-breaking career, police agencies across the country are still grappling with a lack of diversity amid challenges in recruiting and retaining officers.

About 10% of the Las Vegas police force is black compared to 56% white. About 12% of the city’s population is black.

Nationwide, about 17% of officers are black, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. This figure drops to 5% for police supervisors and detectives. The US population is about 14% black.

Moody himself was a detective when he retired. But he never reached a higher rank despite his years of seniority and having passed the necessary examinations for promotion.

Reflecting on his career in 1976, Moody told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that his supervisors had promoted white officers with less experience over him throughout his career. Moody had the sense that the department’s leadership “wasn’t ready for a black ranking officer.”

“Since he was never promoted, he wanted to help others be the best cops, the best detectives, the best traffic officers, the best sergeants, lieutenants and chiefs they could be,” said Sheriff’s Deputy retired Greg McCurdy.

By the time McCurdy joined the police department in 1983, Moody had retired but was still instructing police officers.

“He put a stack of books in front of me when I was a young cop,” McCurdy said, “and he said, ‘Read these books and you’ll be fine.’

Moody served in the Navy during World War II and aspired to become an engineer before being recruited into law enforcement by a police inspector who remembered Moody as a high school athlete.

When several other black officers were hired in Las Vegas, Moody trained them in his home using the same books that taught him how to be a cop.

Clark County commissioners honored Moody last year for his impact on southern Nevada. Commissioner William McCurdy praised Moody for being a “beacon of light and a role model for young people of all stripes.”

Moody was wearing a sweater that read “BLACK EXCELLENCE.” His family told stories of Moody’s love for the police and community, and the importance of reputation.

Moody died in the home he built for his wife, Magnolia, and their daughters—in the same neighborhood as his parents’ home, affectionately known as the Moody House. It sits along a trail that celebrates the history of the Westside, with a marker recognizing its famous resident.

“Moody insisted that most residents wanted and appreciated good police protection,” the marker reads, “and for thirty-one years he gave it to them.”

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