ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) — The Atlanta Police Department is mourning the loss of its first African American Department Chief George Napper. The department announced the passing of the trailblazing chief Friday.

“It is with broken hearts that we announce the passing of former City of Atlanta Police Department Chief George Napper,” in part read the department’s statement.

The distinguished Auburn, California native earned a Ph.D. degree in criminology from the University of California at Berkeley. Before making history with the City of Atlanta, Napper was a respected academician and professor at Spelman College.  

During Napper’s time as chief from 1978-1982, he restructured the department’s Zones from 4 to 6, established field investigation units for each zone, created a White Collar Crime Unit and the Special Investigations Section and prioritized calls for service.

Though his time as chief is also marred by the grim span two-year span when several children disappeared or were found murdered. Through the 1981 formation of a task force of officers, deputies and FBI agents the “Atlanta Child Murders” were brought to a close the following year when Wayne Williams was arrested. 

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That same year, 1982, Mayor Andrew Young appointed Napper to Director of Public Safety. Director Napper appointed Morris G. Redding as his chief successor.

“At the direction of Interim Chief Rodney Bryant, in honor of our Chief George Napper, the City of Atlanta Police Department will wear a mourning band on our badges,” said the department.

Atlanta City Council released the following statement:

“George Napper exemplified the best of law enforcement in our city. As Atlanta’s first African American police chief, he was a trailblazer and showed his commitment to our city every day in his service and the role he played in many significant investigations. Chief Napper was a friend, role model, and mentor to people throughout our community and he will be remembered very fondly. We join family and friends in honoring his life and commemorating his enduring legacy.”

Post 1 At-Large Council member Michael Julian Bond said:

“I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of George Napper, who in 1978 became our city’s first African American police chief. He served with honor and dignity and was an integral part of many crucial investigations in Atlanta’s history. He truly cared about our city’s residents and his staff and worked tirelessly to keep our community safe. I extend my deepest condolences to Imogene, Kenya, Chip, and the entire Napper family. I join family, friends, and colleagues in commemorating his life and his service to Atlanta. May he rest in peace.”

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