Before the Miami Police Department integrated in 1962, black officers couldn’t work at headquarters. They were known as ”patrolmen,” were restricted to black areas of the city–Overtown, Liberty City and Coconut Grove–and had their own precinct: a two-story Overtown building that also served as a courthouse for black defendants. The Miami Herald reports that the structure is due for a rebirth on Tuesday as a police museum — reminding the community of its segregated past.
On exhibit are uniforms and equipment that black officers used as well as photos of the men who broke the department’s color barrier. The concept of the museum was born nine years ago when retired black officers asked the City Commission to preserve the building, which decades of hurricanes, vandalism and neglect had trashed. The $1 million project will also be an educational center. City officials say Overtown’s black precinct was unique in the country. Before it was built, black patrolmen met in shops and homes. Some swore their oaths in a barber shop.