Harry E. Hogan, a law-enforcement pioneer who became the highest-ranking African American police officer in Sacramento, died Sunday of kidney failure, his family said. He was 74.
The Sacramento Police Department had only two black officers when Mr. Hogan joined the force in 1965, a month before violence in the Watts district of Los Angeles set off a wave of unrest in U.S. cities amid tense relations between law enforcement and communities of color. In June 1969, he was called when a dispute at a baseball field in Sacramento's Oak Park neighborhood grew into a gunbattle between police officers and snipers that resulted in 40 arrests.
"They sent him in, thinking he could calm the crowd as a person of color," said Mr. Hogan's stepson, David Greitzer. "He quickly realized it was out of control, and he and his partner had to basically hide out until the riot was over. Bullets were flying everywhere."
To help ease tensions, Mr. Hogan was assigned to a new community relations unit in Oak Park. His quiet but competent manner earned the respect of residents and police officials, who promoted him up the ladder as Sacramento's first black police sergeant, lieutenant and captain.
Assigned to the chief's office in 1981, he coordinated internal affairs unit operations and was a liaison to the community and to the state Legislature. In 1985, he became the police department's first African American deputy chief.
A former college football player, Mr. Hogan was an imposing figure who reached out to help others. He retired in 1986 from the force, which has grown more diverse to include more people of color and women as sworn officers.
"He was a mentor to a lot of up-and-coming officers," Greitzer said. "They looked up to him because he was the first, and he had a very easygoing, gentle demeanor that made him approachable and a command presence that made him a natural leader."
Born in 1939 in Gallipolis, Ohio, Mr. Hogan was a teenager when his father died. He studied at Ohio State University and played under legendary football coach Woody Hayes but left to help support his younger siblings.
He joined the Air Force and settled after his discharge in Sacramento, where a job working with juvenile offenders inspired him to go into law enforcement. He earned a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from California State University, Sacramento.
He was married for 35 years to his wife, Ingrid. They lived in Sacramento and became avid sailors who piloted boats to Mexico and the Caribbean and barges on trips through France and Holland. He was active in sailing groups and was a board member and vice commodore of the San Pablo Yacht Club.
After retiring from the Sacramento police force, Mr. Hogan traveled as a law enforcement consultant for the United Nations and helped professionalize the Nigerian police force. He also worked as a code-enforcement officer for the cities of West Sacramento and Woodland.
"He was fairly young when he retired," Greitzer said. "He wanted to continue to be productive and give back."
Harry E. Hogan
Born: Jan. 3, 1939
Died: Feb. 17, 2013
Survived by: Wife, Ingrid of Sacramento; stepson, David Greitzer of Fair Oaks; sister, Nita Casey of Penryn; one grandson
Services: Celebration of life, 3 p.m. March 2 at Point San Pablo Yacht Club, 700 W. Cutting Blvd., Richmond