Linnie Hallmon (circled) becomes the first African-American woman hired by the Atlanta Police Department (screen capture); (right) Linnie Juanita Hallmon Booker at her graduation from the Citizens Police Academy in Memphis in December 2018. (Photo: Karanja A. Ajanaku/TSD Archives)

by Najee El-Amin —

As African-American History month winds down, a living embodiment of that history received recognition she deserved in Atlanta on Tuesday (Feb. 23). 

The Atlanta Police Department honored its first African-American woman officer, Linnie Hallmon Booker, with a virtual luncheon, where she was joined by friends, family and current personnel of the APD, including Chief Rodney Bryant.  

Booker now lives in Memphis. The Lexington, Mississippi native started her journey as a human resources “typer” for the department. Her duties consisted of answering the phone and running to city hall to get the mail (a job she “couldn’t stand”).

Booker knew that her time could be better spent than sitting behind a desk all day. She wanted to be a police officer. 

In her spare time, Booker took the entry exam and, after weeks of studying, she passed. In the 1970s, the APD didn’t hire women. When the call came with the message that she had been hired, she could barely hold back her emotions. 

 “I was just thrilled! I didn’t even know what to do,” said Booker.

“Let me tell you something, other than being in the pastoral ministry, the Atlanta Police Department was the best job I have ever had. I went to work an hour before it was time for me to start.” 

Booker had made history, but she was not complacent. She was first assigned to the crime prevention force, where she went into the community and taught kids how to stay safe.

Generally, she was met with positivity; people welcomed a new face on the police force. 

She soon was assigned to the narcotics unit, a more dangerous position. Booker would go undercover, dressed in promiscuous clothing, and lure prescription drug dealers. She would make the transaction and give the medication to a nearby uniformed officer, who would make the arrest.

Linnie Harmon took a shot at joining the Atlanta Police Department and became the first African-American female officer on the force. Screen capture)

 Although she says the job was scary at times, she never backed down from the call to duty.

Just last year, a female officer from the narcotics unit was slain, further amplifying the risk. Booker was shot at on numerous occasions, narrowly escaping getting hit. 

The retired police veteran wants even more women to join the fight against crime. One of Booker’s granddaughters is in the police academy in Greenwood, Mississippi.

“I encourage any woman who desires a good and fruitful career in law enforcement to join,” said Booker. “Just be careful for yourself and be careful for other people. Go on and enjoy your job.”

When Booker retired from the force in 1989, it was hard for her to move on. After 23 years of service, the police department was so ingrained that she fell into a depression. 

“I had it so bad that if I saw a wreck or an accident on the road, I would pull over and see if anybody was hurt and offer any type of assistance,” she said. “If traffic was hot, I’m out there in civilian uniform directing traffic. Now you know that was a little tight.”

She found satisfaction in raising her children. 

Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings was the keynote speaker at the Citizens Police Academy graduation in Memphis in December 2018. This is the moment he learned Linnie Harmon Booker was the first African-American female officer on the Atlanta Police Department. (Photo: Karanja A. Ajanaku/TSD Archives)

Throughout the recognition luncheon, Booker had the panel of officers and staff in good spirits. It was clear that neither her heart for helping others nor her sense of humor had faded.

Towards the end of the program, Booker’s granddaughter, Arshanti Williams, who is an aspiring filmmaker, voiced admiration for her grandmother’s work. 

“Grandma, I just wanted to tell you, you created history. You opened doors for me,” said Williams. 

“I’m going to make a documentary about you. … We’re going to make sure that everybody in the world knows my grandma was the first Black (woman) police officer in Atlanta.”