African American Police League Records

Institution: Chicago History Museum
1601 N. Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60614
Phone: (312) 642-4600
Date: 1961-1988
Extent: 214 Linear Feet
Finding Aid
Access to this collection is restricted; please contact the holding institution for details.

Biographical/Historical Note:
On May 10, 1968, five Black Chicago policemen founded the Afro-American Patrolmen's League (AAPL; renamed the Afro-American Police League in 1979 and later, the African American Police League) with the stated purpose of establishing a greater degree of professionalism in law enforcement, to elevate the image of the African American police person in the African American community, and to eliminate police brutality in law enforcement. It was the first African American police organization of its kind. The original members were all fellow graduates of the Chicago Police Academy Class of 1965: Frank Lee, Curtis Cowsen, Willie Ware, Edward "Buzz" Palmer, and Renault Robinson. Renault Robinson served as president of the AAPL from 1968-1972 and as executive director from 1970-1983. Harold Saffold, one of the AAPL's earliest members, served as president of the AAPL from 1972 to ca. 1983. Kermit Coleman, attorney, served as general council to the AAPL from 1976-1979. Father George Clements, pastor of Holy Angels Church on Chicago's South Side, served as the spiritual advisor of the group.

In 1970 the AAPL established the League to Improve the Community (LIC) as a non-profit, tax-exempt organization formed to spearhead initiatives in community work and crime prevention education. The LIC became the community education and action arm of the AAPL with its own board, officers, and staff. The LIC raised funds for the AAPL by holding annual benefit dinners and soliciting funds from foundations, such as Playboy and Wieboldt. Members of the LIC board consisted of Chicago-area church leaders, representatives from numerous South Side Chicago community organizations and tenant groups, lawyers, locally and nationally recognized media personalities, and local criminal justice reform activists. The AAPL transferred the responsibility for the operation of the AAPL's citizen complaint-and-referral service to the LIC. The LIC initiatives in community involvement included applying for government grants to fund community education programs, such as the Robert Taylor Homes (Chicago Housing Authority) Anti-Crime Project and the Work Incentive Program.

Scope and Content Note:
The collection includes annual reports, court files, fundraising items, historical information, minutes, reports, correspondence, clippings, topical files, newsletters, police brutality report files, and publications and flyers relative to the ongoing work of the Afro-American Police League (AAPL) and its education and action arm, the League to Improve the Community (LIC). The collection also contains items on numerous law enforcement and civil rights organizations across the country; materials on the suspension of AAPL executive director Renault Robinson from the Chicago Police Department and related lawsuits; and materials pertaining to the National Black Police Association (NBPA).

The collection also contains Renault Robinson's working files about his service as a commissioner and board chairman of the Chicago Housing Authority (1979-1987); and Robinson's working files about his involvement in political campaigns, including those of Ralph Metcalf, Mayor Jane Byrne, and Mayor Harold Washington.

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