In the late 60’s in Chicago, tensions between white police officers and Black city residents were tense. Observing the mistreatment of Black people, Black officers on the Chicago force formed the Afro-American Patrolmen’s League to serve as a bridge of communication and protector for their respective communities.
The AAPL was formed by Edward “Buzz” Palmer, Renault “Reggie” Robinson, and three other officers, Curtis Cowsen, Willie Ware, Wilbur Crooks, Jack Debonnett, along with civilian Tom Mitchell. The group was outspoken, which angered their white counterparts and reportedly led to retaliation and abuse from them. Despite still looking to uphold the law, the AAPL’s formation was seen as an affront by the CPD.
Several officers complained of not being able to secure promotion or accolades on the job, which was crucial to officers looking to advance in their careers and command a stronger salary. The AAPL’s racial discrimination suit in 1973 alleged that Black officers were relegated to lesser status and bypassed for some of the promotions handed to white officers.
A lower court sided with the AAPL in the case. The case was eventually moved to the U.S. Supreme Court, which also ruled in favor of the AAPL. It is considered a landmark case that addressed the slow integration and practices of police stations nationwide.
Today, the group is known as the African-American Police League.