Retired Constable Allen Thompson
Allen Thompson, referred to as “Al” by his friends and family, was hired by the Dresden Police Service on August 5, 1969, making him Dresden’s first and only Black Police Officer.
During his career, Al was described by his superiors and his fellow officers as a pleasure to be around, humorous, dedicated, reliable and very committed to his community and his fellow officers.
Constable Thompson’s investigative skills were recognized by the Ministry of The Attorney General in a 1988 Arson Investigation and by the Ministry of Solicitor General in a 1991 Coroner’s Inquest.
In 1998, Al was in his 29th year of policing, and The Dresden Police Service joined other local Police services to form the Chatham-Kent Police Service. In the Fall of 1999, Al received a Police Exemplary Service Medal for his 30 years of service. On March 30, 2002, Constable Thompson retired as a Chatham-Kent Police Officer.
On February 1 of this year, Chatham-Kent Police Officers visited Constable Thompson and his lovely wife, Sandy, at their home. During the visit, Al recalled the camaraderie between the officers from the local services and how they would gather at his home for coffee. We discussed the changes in policing and the advancement of technology and training and learned about how officers relied on “call boxes” to receive service calls or check in with dispatch. We looked through old photos and news clippings and listened to old police stories. It was a great visit.
Thank you, Al and Sandy, for welcoming us into your home! We sincerely enjoyed our visit.
The Thompson Family
The Thompson family has a long history in the Chatham-Kent region and are descendent of enslaved peoples in the south. The Thompson family has called many of the area’s Black settlements home, including the town of Dresden.
Much of the Dawn Settlement (Dresden, Ontario) history is widely shared at the Josiah Henson Museum of African-Canadian History. Rev. Josiah Henson sought a way to provide refugees and escaping slaves with the means to become self-sufficient when they arrived in Canada West. That is why he purchased 200 acres of land and built a school, The British American Institute. The community of Dawn built up around the school. Many of the settlement’s early citizens worked at sawmills, grist mills, and other local industries and farmed the land.
Like his ancestors before him and many of the early Black settlers to our area, Al still farms on his family land in Chatham Township. For as long as there has been farming in Chatham-Kent, Black families have been farming the land.
Al is a descendant of the Thompson family and the Ladd family, who also has a long history in the Chatham-Kent region. One of the more well-known members of his family is his uncle Alvin Ladd, a founding member of the National Unity Association. The NUA fought for the equality and equity of the Black community at a time when segregation and discrimination were not against the law. Their fight led to the passing of many laws, including the 1958 Ontario Discrimination Commission Act, the Ontario Human Rights Commission in 1961 and the enactment of the 1962 Ontario Human Rights Code.
You will see more about the National Unity Association and Civil Rights Movement across Chatham-Kent in another of our posts this month. To learn more about the Dawn Settlement and history in Dresden, visit the Josiah Henson Museum of African-Canadian History at the following address https://www.heritagetrust.on.ca/en/properties/josiah-henson-museum”
(Credit: The Chatham Black Historical Society)