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One day in 1959, Louis “Hop” Kendrick was sitting in a Hill District diner when he saw Herman Mitchell walk in to buy heroin from a dealer.

“I said to the guy who sold him the dope, ‘Why’d you sell that to him? He’s no junkie,’ and I’d see him come in, buy dope and leave,” Kendrick said. “I knew he wasn’t an addict—but I didn’t know he was a cop. A few weeks later he comes back in with a bunch of arrest warrants.”

What Kendrick didn’t know, what nobody—including his family—knew, was that Mitchell had been pulled out of the Pittsburgh police academy early to be part of a massive undercover drug task force. The case set Mitchell on the path to a 36-year career that saw him retire at the rank of commander in 1994—at the time, one of only a few African Americans to achieve that rank.

Mitchell died Nov. 16 after a battle with thyroid cancer. He was 86.

“He was one of the good guys,” said Kendrick. “He was in one of the first classes of Black recruits, and he was part of that lawsuit that got in the consent decree on hiring a Black male, a Black female and a White female for every White male hired. He was a family man, and a church man.”

Family man might be an understatement. He is survived by eight children, 24 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. Most were in attendance for his Nov. 27 memorial service at Rodman Street Missionary Baptist Church, as were his three surviving sisters, Delores Slade, Phyllis Hall and the oldest, Merle Watts of Detroit.

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