SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — In recognition of Black History Month, Illinois State Police (ISP) and the Illinois Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers (ABLE) are honoring Black troopers who have served their communities.

A press release says ABLE was founded 1984 by the State of Illinois. It’s a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that works to ensure every effort is being made to provide equal opportunity for all people to work for the Illinois State Police. 

The release says ABLE works collectively with the department by implementing effective programs that achieves parity for minority officers throughout the rank structure. 

Additionally, ABLE supports the continued training, technical assistance and consideration to its members to enable them to more effectively pursue career opportunities within the department.

In 1993, ABLE created a scholarship program in honor of Cpt. Robert M. Patton, the first African-American in the nation to earn the rank of captain. He served District 15.

Each year, ABLE offers scholarships to students who have the desire to attend a college, university, trade school, or any other accredited educational institution as a full-time student. The 2020 Captain Robert M. Patton Scholarship award recipients were Gbemisola Akintunde-Nieves (Downers Grove, IL), Angel Lee (Bolingbrook, IL), Victoria Miller (Woodridge, IL), Kemdilim Okoye (Plainfield, IL), and Deja Richardson (Hillside, IL). 

“There are many outstanding African-American male and female ISP troopers who have strengthened the department through their dedication and commitment to service,” says the release. “Standing among those who first proudly served in the ISP are Ret. Colonel JoAnn Johnson, the first African-American female to attain the high-ranking position; and Ret. Lieutenant Sheila Parker and Special Agent Pamela Grant, the first African-American female ISP troopers (Cadet Class 53).”

Other distinguished ISP officers include Colonel Timothy Tyler, who was recently appointed Chief of Police for the Illinois Conservation Police. He is the first Black person serve in the role.

There’s also Division of Criminal Investigation Special Agent Robert Tate, who was awarded the 2020 Special Agent of the Year Award.