LIMA — The Hall of Justice in downtown Lima, which houses the Lima Police Department, has officially been redesignated the Chief William K. Davenport Hall of Justice Building to memorialize the professional accomplishments of Lima’s first black chief of police.
“It is a great honor that his legacy will carry on,” Steven Kile, grandson of Davenport, said during Thursday’s dedication ceremony. “He had a lot of influence on the community.”
Kile said Davenport believed strongly in Lima. His descendants — more than 40 attended the dedication ceremony — have worked to uphold his beliefs in faith, family and work.
Kile said he has strong memories of his grandfather’s work ethic and his expectations of excellence. Kile recollected how he would help his grandfather mow when he was just boy. After the job was done, Davenport would examine the lawn, making sure the grass was cut clean and the garden wasn’t damaged. Kile would watch him from inside the house, hoping he did it right the first time.
Those expectations carried over to Davenport’s work. Retired Police Inspector Don Stratton worked under Davenport for much of his law enforcement career, and he said even though Davenport could usually find a mistake in record time, he did it fairly.
“When he assigned a project, it would take me six weeks before I put it on his desk. It took him 30 seconds to find a flaw.” Stratton said. “He was the finest man that I ever knew.”
Davenport managed the Lima Police Department between 1968 and 1978, a time of high racial tension, and he recognized the unique position he held.
“Being a policeman is more than putting people in jail. It is helping people, a lot of people,” Davenport was quoted as saying in 1968 for a story. “This is the agency people often turn to when they need help. Sometimes they just want someone to talk with and quite often we can’t be of much help except just to listen, to let them unburden themselves.”
Chief of Police Kevin Martin never worked with Davenport, but he did meet the man when Martin was just a third grader on tour of the police department.
“He was larger than life to a bunch of us third graders,” Martin said. When the group stopped in Davenport’s office, Martin remembers Davenport looking over the group and saying, “One of you might be the chief of police someday.”
Today, whenever a tour comes through Lima Police Department, Martin tries to take the time to pass on Davenport’s words.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.