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Washington Long’s career in law enforcement was filled full of firsts

Long was the city’s first black police officer, assistant chief and eventual chief of police

Washington Long, Albany’s first black police officer who eventually became Chief of the Albany Police Department, died Thursday at the age of 86. His career with the APD began in 1966 and came to an end with his retirement in 1994. (File Photo)

Washington Long, Albany’s first black police officer who eventually became Chief of the Albany Police Department, died Thursday at the age of 86. His career with the APD began in 1966 and came to an end with his retirement in 1994. (File Photo)

ALBANY —Washington Long, who spent 28 years breaking racial barriers in the Albany Police Department, died Thursday at the age of 86 at Palmyra Nursing Home.

In 1966, he became one of the city’s first black police officers when he was hired by then APD Chief Laurie Pritchett. In 1986 he was named the department’s assistant chief, a job he held for more than a year before becoming the city’s first black police chief in 1987. Long held that job until he retired in 1994.

“I met (Pritchett) before I got out of the Air Force. He told me he’d like to have me come down and join him if he could convince the commissioners to hire some blacks,” Long said in a 2000 interview with The Albany Herald. “I thought he was, contrary to a lot of folks, very straight forward with you and he loved policemen. He tried to take care of them.”

Long was stationed at Turner Field during the 60s and said then that people serving on the base were not aware of the racial environment that existed in the city until they got off the base.

“I came downtown once and I got stopped by a police officer and that’s what made me make up my mind to join the police force,” Washington said in a 1990 interview. “I talked with Mayor (Asa) Kelly about the situation going on down here which we on the base weren’t aware of unless we left the base. I said ‘I believe I can be a better police officer than the officer who stopped me.’”

As chief, Long said his philosophy of law enforcement was simple.

“I try to live by the Golden Rule and apply it, and I feel you can apply it in every walk of life, and you can feel better.” Long said then. “I don’t look at the position to have the power to do things, I want to do the thing I feel is right, what I would have done to me.”

Long’s daughter, Lisa, who works for the State of New York Education Department, talked about her father’s legacy.

“As a child growing up, he was just ‘Dad’ to me. He went to work and came home just like other dads,” Lisa Long said. “I remember he was a strong proponent of education. He opened up his home to family members to live with us while they went to school. He was not a quitter. Once he started something he finished it, and he passed that on to me and other people as well. He was always positive, which was amazing considering the adversity he overcame in his life and his career.”

Visitation will be from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m Thursday at Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church. Services will be held at 11 a.m. Friday with interment following at Riverside Cemetery