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Capt. Tonatte Mitchell Makes History as First Black Woman to Earn Captain’s Rank at Charleston Police

Celebratory police promotion ceremony.

Capt. Tonatte Mitchell, First Black Woman to Earn Captain’s Rank at Charleston Police

In a historic achievement, Capt. Tonatte Mitchell has become the first Black woman to earn the rank of Captain at the Charleston Police Department. Mitchell, who dedicated 28 years of her life to serving the department, sets a new precedent with her remarkable accomplishment.

Growing Through the Ranks

Mitchell has an illustrious history with the department, climbing steadily through the ranks over the years. “In ‘98 I received my first promotion to private first class. After that I moved to corporal, our first line supervisor position, then got promoted to sergeant, and later to lieutenant” And, as of April, she was promoted to Captain,” Mitchell explained.

However, the weight of her achievement extends beyond her personal journey. Mitchell is the first Black woman to hold this position in the history of the department. Yet, ever humble, she wishes her work to speak for her rather than her historic achievement. “I am humbled and grateful that I was chosen to be the first African-American, Black female captain. But it wasn’t all about that. It’s an example for the community and women that look like me that it can happen no matter where you start from,” said Mitchell.

Proud Charleston Native

Mitchell’s story began in Robert Mills Manor, a low-income public housing development in Charleston. After graduating from Burke High School, she pursued her passion for justice studying criminal justice at Benedict College. Today, she serves the very community she hails from with unwavering dedication.

Mitchell’s family has deep roots in first-line public service. Her grandfather, Harry B. Smith, was a Charleston police officer before transitioning to help establish the North Charleston Police Department. Mitchell’s father was a fireman. Her history in law enforcement and public service guided her towards her career. “Law enforcement was always in my heart,” Mitchell asserts.

A Youth Mentor and an Active Community Servant

Beyond her duties as a captain, Mitchell invests time mentoring the youth, supports her community through her affiliation with Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and contributes to her church. Her dedication to the community manifests in her effort to open two community centers in Charleston, one in Gadsden Green, and the other in her childhood neighborhood, Robert Mills Manor. These centers provide resources for adults and offer a safe environment for children.

Challenging the Odds

Mitchell’s accomplishment represents a significant step towards diversifying law enforcement. According to a 2020 report from the U.S. Department of Justice, Black officers make up 11.6% of full-time police officers in local departments, while women comprise 13.5% of the force. “We know that that’s an issue. There’s no denying that there’s an issue, which means we need to work to bridge this gap.” Mitchell voiced.

Mitchell’s Call to Action

Mitchell is passionate about using her position to foster more diverse representation in law enforcement. This includes regular outreach in local schools and colleges aimed at recruiting from the underrepresented groups within the community. She invites others to rise to their callings, embodying the change she wishes to see. Her journey is a pledge towards equality and diversity, inspiring countless future officers to follow in her footsteps.

Capt. Tonatte Mitchell Makes History as First Black Woman to Earn Captain's Rank at Charleston Police

HERE Charleston
Author: HERE Charleston

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