Original release (February 10. 2016  8:34 a.m.):

February is Black History Month. The Baltimore County Police Department takes this opportunity to recognize African Americans who have been pioneers in this agency.

Raised in the small community of Turner Station in eastern Baltimore County, Gwendolyn Parrish knew she wanted a profession that helped people. After graduating from Dunbar High School in 1973, she did not consider law enforcement because of the tension between the African American residents of Turner Station and the police. Instead, she began medical classes at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

Parrish later reconsidered law enforcement and joined the Baltimore County Police Department in 1980. Over the next 31 years, she worked at many different assignments and forged a trail for minorities.

Parrish’s assignments included Precinct 13/Edgemere (now closed); Precinct 12/Dundalk; Precinct 2/Woodlawn; Precinct 1/Wilkens; and the Community Oriented Police Enforcement Unit (COPE). During the four years with COPE, she received numerous letters of thanks for her problem-solving work in Baltimore County neighborhoods.

Parrish was the first female African American officer to successfully complete departmental motorcycle training. In 1999, she became the first African American woman promoted to the rank of Sergeant.

Perhaps Parrish’s greatest legacy is her role as a leader in the police minority community. Parrish was a founding member and former treasurer of the Blue Guardians and a state delegate of the National Black Police Association (NBPA). She was a lifetime member of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) and the National Black Police Association; as a member she enthusiastically participated in international conferences and other educational activities.

At the time of her death in September 2011, Parrish had served the community as a Baltimore County Police Officer longer than any other African American woman. “She was a valued member of our Department, and we are deeply saddened by her passing,” said Police Chief James Johnson after her death. “She made significant contributions to public safety over three decades, and she will certainly be missed.”

Sergeant Gwendolyn L. Parrish will be remembered as a pioneer for minorities who was dedicated to the community she served.