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Civil rights leader Carl Snowden has asked the city to name the Annapolis police department after the first black Annapolis police chief Joe Johnson.
Civil rights leader Carl Snowden has asked the city to name the Annapolis police department after the first black Annapolis police chief Joe Johnson. (File photo by Joshua McKerrow / Capital Gazette)

The first black police chief in Annapolis history may soon have his name adorned to the city police department building he oversaw for more than a decade.

In an email Thursday to Mayor Gavin Buckley, the City Council and other city officials, Carl Snowden, a longtime Annapolis civil rights activist, requested a resolution be introduced to name the Annapolis Police Department after former police chief Joseph S. Johnson, who served as chief for 14 years. The police department is located on Taylor Avenue.

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“As the City Council approaches its mid-term, we believe that this resolution if approved will be a shining example of the City’s goal of documenting and preserving the history of African Americans whose service made our city a better a place for all of its citizens,” Snowden wrote.

At a Caucus of African American Leaders meeting Tuesday, attended by more than 100 people, including several City Council members, the caucus approved a motion to rename the building after Johnson. Snowden, the convener of the caucus, has asked that it coincide with Black History Month in February.

Other Annapolis streets, buildings and monuments are named after notable Annapolitans, Snowden said, but the tendency is to wait until those individuals have passed away to honor them.

“We think it’s important to recognize them while they’re living," Snowden said.

Buckley called Johnson “a tremendous public servant" and said he expects to discuss the matter further with Snowden.

Johnson served as the city’s top cop from 1994 to 2008. He is credited with improving the diversity of the police force and turning the department into a more professional organization.

“He is probably one of the most highly respected law enforcement officers in the state,” Snowden said. “He is a native Annapolitan. ... He was appointed at a time when the police department was going through some very serious issues."

In 2010, Johnson began working as the chief of staff for the Housing Authority of the City of Annapolis, a post he held until 2014.

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