Celebrating Women's History

IMPD captains pave way for Black women on the force

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Commander Ida Williams and former captains Patricia Holman and Karen Arnett are paving the way for women on the force. In the history of IMPD, they are the only women of color who rose through the ranks to become captain.

Williams earned the permanent rank of captain, although she serves as commander.

“I’ve never felt like there was something a man did on this job that I could not do,” said retired IMPD Capt. Patricia Holman.

Holman is the first to make strides in that direction.

“It’s an awesome sisterhood because I love the two people that I share that with,” Holman said.

“So it’s awesome, but then if you really think about it it’s really kind of sad too,” Holman said. “It really was an honor and honestly at the time I did not know there had never been one.”

Holman joined the Indianapolis Police Department in 1979. She served for 32 years climbing the ranks from patrol officer on the east side of the city to serving as deputy chief covering north of Washington Street. She became captain in 2002.

Sixteen years later, Arnett made history becoming the second Black woman captain at IMPD.

“One of my goals and because I was a captain for such a short period of time before I retired was just to make a difference,” Arnett said. “I wasn’t even thinking about the fact that I was making history.”

She retired in January of 2020 but over the years she had several roles including commander in the Downtown District. She also helped improve relationships between police and the community by promoting neighborhood policing programs.

“The community, they really want you out there,” Arnett said. “They want to know who the police are that’s in their community and it really helps to make those connections.”

This year Williams was promoted to captain. She was appointed to the department in 1989. She’s served as sergeant and lieutenant overseeing the agency’s recruiting efforts. Now these three women have formed a special kind of sisterhood, one that’s undeniably unshakable and there’s one woman at the center of it.

On Friday, Williams received a picture of Emma Christy Baker, the first Black woman to become a police officer in Indianapolis in 1918. It’s a special treasure that’s been passed along from one to the other as a source of inspiration.

“A hundred and six years between IPD and IMPD and we all started at IPD and in 166 years it’s just been the three of us as Black female captains,” Williams said.

But they hope to inspire other women to break down barriers and help make a difference in the community.

According to IMPD, right now there are more than 1,600 officers at IMPD and only 33 are Black female officers. The police department hopes to recruit more police officers moving forward.