OCALA, Fla. – Monday afternoon, a Marion County trailblazer — the first-ever Black female officer hired at the Ocala Police Department more than a half-century ago — was honored.
On the first day of Black History Month, the department invited her back to give her a special gift and also to say thank you for shaping the department into what it is today.
Pastor Alice Mae Faison is like a celebrity in Ocala.
“Pastor Faison was the first African-American female sworn law enforcement officer at the police department here in 1969!” a young Black female officer announced to the crowd that had gathered at the police department, including Pastor Faison’s large extended family.
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Faison is respected and admired for what she did 54 years ago — having the courage to even apply for a job at a mostly-white police department — but also for what her legacy continues to do every day.
Ocala Police Department Community Liasion Tara Woods explained how Faison inspired her to work her way up to the top ranks of the department.
“Pastor Faison, she and I share a unique story because she’s the first in line to wear the uniform and I was the first in line to make all of the different ranks of the police department,” Woods said. “So for me personally she paved the way.”
Ocala Police Chief Mike Balken presented a plaque to Faison and called the day she was hired in 1969 “historic” for the City and the Ocala Police Department.
Balken said he’s struggling to fill openings right now, but that’s also because he’s trying to get the best recruits, like Faison, who was commended and recognized during her career for her outstanding service to the community.
“When you think about the first Black female police officer we ever hired, to have her back here in 2023, I think it sends a message when our young officers see that and when the community sees this report and sees that there were people who were here and look like that back in 1969,” Balken said. “Maybe that will help us with some of the [hiring] problems... with bringing a different generation of cops that don’t necessarily look like the rest of us.”
Balken also honored Faison by having a hat made with her old badge number: 34. It was a badge she fought for and earned. When Faison was first hired, segregation had just ended officially, but it still existed unofficially in Ocala and so did discrimination.
“I wore this hat with respect and let me tell you it was hard some days and some days it wasn’t,” Faison said. “One thing I would like to say, and I thank God for that, I was born color-blind. I do not see color. Never.”
Faison showed News 6 last year the church she founded in Ocala, Sisterhood/Brotherhood Ministries, after her quarter-century in law enforcement.
She is still serving her community with regular clothing and food drives and outreach.
“I had to treat everyone with respect and had to love everyone just like myself,” Faison said. “Policing will always be in my heart. Amen, what a beautiful occasion.”
A drunk driver ended Faison’s law enforcement career in 1985, otherwise, she would’ve kept working.
She turns 76 in a few days.
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