Emma Christy Baker
For the longest time, the grave of Emma Christy Baker (February 10, 1865 - September 22, 1955) was unmarked. That changed when Indianapolis Police Department Officer Marilyn Gurnell read about the oversight in an issue of the Informer, the department's newsletter.
Gurnell, an officer who worked with the department's youth programs, involved more than 500 students from five Indianapolis schools in this history saving project. Officer Gurnell and her students raised $3,300 in donations to cover the cost of IPD Officer Emma Christy Baker's memorial.
Emma had a laundry business in Indianapolis and was well known around town. She was recruited in 1918 during World War I, became one of the city's first black police officers, and was one of thirteen women appointed to the Indianapolis Police Department's female wing. Officer Baker was issued a badge, paid the same as a man, and sent out to arrest shoplifters and other troublemakers. By 1921 Officer Baker's unit had grown to twenty-three members and had become the largest all-woman police unit in the world.
When Officer Baker retired in 1939, she was working as a jail matron. The city's utilization of female officers had ended in the 1930's. Women did not return to street duty in Indianapolis until 1968 when Betty Blankenship and Elizabeth M. Coffal Robinson became part of the city's and the nation's first female patrol-car team.
Today, IPD Officer Emma Christy Baker is included on the heritage tours at Crown Hill Cemetery. Her life's work and pioneering role in the criminal justice system is memorialized thanks to Officer Gurnell and her students.
Officer Baker is buried in Section 37 at Crown Hill Cemetery. Please stop by to pay your respects.
"Attempts in 1854 and 1856 to establish a paid city police force under a state law of 1852 proved temporary and the department was twice disbanded. In May, 1857, the city council finally succeeded in creating a permanent Indianapolis Police Department (IPD). Paid $1.50 a day, a worker's wage, a man patrolled each of the seven wards from evening to early morning, his only badge of office a silver star.”
Encyclopedia of Indianapolis
David J. Bodenhamer & Robert G. Barrows