Niles’ first African American police officer recalls his 29 years of service

Published 9:26 am Thursday, February 28, 2019

February is Black History Month, and to celebrate, Leader Publications will be recognizing African American individuals who are making an impact in the communities of Cassopolis, Buchanan, Dowagiac, Edwardsburg and Niles. Our final spotlight is on Cassopolis’ Hubert Ingram.


NILES — At 77, Hubert Ingram still remembers the day his career path changed for the long run.

It was Dec. 2, 1964, and he was hired as a patrolman with the Niles Police Department.

The job made Ingram, then 21, the first African American officer to join the squad. While discrimination in the field would throw challenges his way, Ingram’s determination to serve, protect and respect his community members never appeared to waver, though those who ask him about it will hear him say, that he was just doing his job.

Ingram lives in Cassopolis today. He grew up in South Bend and was one of seven children in his family. As a teen, Ingram was well-known for his sports prowess at South Bend Central High School. Ingram remembers the victories and defeats on the court and the field when he was a football player and basketball player.

“We were two-time state champions in football,” he said. 

Before he became an officer, Ingram worked a handful of jobs, including at Studebaker, American Bridge and U.S. Steel. Ingram said his mom heard that the Niles Police Department was hiring and she encouraged him to apply.

A month after he applied, Ingram was working on the squad. He grew to love the job and the chance he got to help residents.

“I enjoyed it,” Ingram said. “I got to meet a lot of individuals.”

His duties included patrolling the area, answering complaints and, all in all, being a problem solver, he said. While Ingram remembers lots of respect from his fellow officers, he did not always get the same treatment in the field.

He recalled a day in the mid-1960s when he went to serve an arrest warrant at the Four Flags Hotel. The man Ingram tried to detain told him that “only a white officer” could arrest him. Ingram called his captain for direction, and he ordered Ingram to arrest the man and bring him back to the station.

Ingram followed orders and was able to get the man back to the station, but not without enduring more insults from him.

“He made a remark, ‘boy, if I didn’t have these handcuffs on, I would show you something,’” Ingram said. “Yeah, I locked him up.”

He dealt with other incidents, including from one man in particular who liked to cause trouble at local pubs. The man had called Ingram racial slurs and punched him when Ingram tried to deescalate a fight. The man went to jail after the assault. When Ingram saw him a year later, his tone seemed to have changed.

“He said, ‘hey, Herbie. I’m staying out of trouble,’” Ingram said. “I said, ‘good. I’m glad to hear it.’”

Ingram said the discrimination he dealt with in the field did not discourage him from his duties.

“That didn’t freeze me. It was an experience [I also had] in the Marine Corps,” Ingram said.

In addition to his service with the Niles Police Department, Ingram spent 23 years as a Marine Corps Reserve. 

When asked if he feels he served as a role model to his community, Ingram remained humble.

“The only thing I did was my job, and [I] tried to be as knowledgeable as I can,” he said. “I [wanted to show] respect to people.”

Ingram said he is proud to have worked with the men and women on the Niles Police Department force when he was an officer.

“We all shared in a respect for each other,” Ingram said. “And also, [I liked] the citizens within the city of Niles that I got to know and made contact with. I’m proud of everything I did and what I accomplished.”