ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- The 2015 class of recruits for the Rochester Police Department has been noted as one of the most diverse in its history, but there was a time when the RPD lacked diversity completely.
That changed when Charles Price joined the force almost 68 years ago. Price said what started as a challenge led to a life-long career.
“A gentleman came in by the name of Howard Cole and he and my mother went to school together," Price said. "He was the head of The Voice newspaper here in Rochester and he told us they wouldn't take colored boys on the Rochester Police Department."
He eventually left his job at Kodak and started his new career with the department in December of 1947.
"It was a funny thing. They called and said, you passed everything and we want to appoint you and we want to keep you on the QT, shall I say.”
Price, who was well-known in the community, started working undercover. He eventually went from patrolman to detective, sergeant and lieutenant, but years with the force didn't come without adversity. Price said he faced racism in and outside of the police department, like when a 911 caller wouldn't come to the door when he responded.
"She called again and I said, tell her the police officer is sitting outside of her house. If she wants me to enter, I'm here. At the time, she wanted me to go around the back door."
Price, at the time the only black officer in the department, didn't know where to turn to seek advice. He said it was a trip in 1949 to Virginia that gave him insight.
"I can't go to a black officer and even say to him what I do. I went all the way to Richmond, Virginia just to see this black officer. I wanted to find out how it is."
Now 92, Price reflects on his struggles and successes. Some of his memories include escorting countless dignitaries like Bobby Kennedy, Richard Nixon, and George Wallace. He also provided security for Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Just five days later, Malcolm X was assassinated in a New York City ballroom.
"We just sat there with our shoes off and just sat there and talked. They wanted to know what we talked about but that was between Malcolm and I. The FBI wanted to talk with me after he was assassinated and I told them we just had a conversation."
Price also recalls a significant part in Rochester's history: the race riots of 1964.
"I was able to walk the streets and no one bothered me until it was past curfew. They had the state police there and here I come walking up the street and state police arrested me, but he was doing his job."
Price retired in 1985 as a captain. He said his only goal was to be a source of change during a time when some thought it was impossible.
“Fight them on their own terms. Why sit out here on the sidelines and yell and scream? What good's it going to do? Join them. Find out how they operate and beat them from the inside out."