The Courageous 12 were 12 Black officers from the St. Petersburg Police Department in Florida who banded together to stand up for their rights. The daring dozen sued the city to win the right to fully use their powers to arrest any offending citizens, not just Black ones.
Their remarkable story began in St. Petersburg in the ‘60s. Some of the officers were already familiar with one another after growing up together in the city’s rough neighborhoods. For some, becoming police officers was a chance at personal redemption despite the reputation the force had of mistreating its Black residents. For others, it was a hope to make a difference.
Officers Leon Jackson, Adam Baker, Freddie Crawford, Raymond DeLoach, Charles Holland, Robert Keys, Primus Killen, James King, Johnnie B. Lewis, Horace Nero, Jerry Styles, and Nathaniel Wooten all passed rigorous tests and tough grilling from white officers to see if they could handle the pressure. According to accounts, the group didn’t experience much in the way of racism from other white officers but white commanding officers effectively limited their abilities.
Black officers were not allowed to work in white neighborhoods and could only arrest other Black citizens. This frustrated the group and with the help of lawyer James Sanderlin, the twelve officers took out a bank loan to mount an offensive against the city of St. Petersburg. On May 11, 1965, the group filed a lawsuit in federal court and buckled up for a long fight for justice. On August 1, 1968, the officers won their case and were able to carry out their jobs as intended.
Just two of the 12 officers are alive today, one of whom is Freddie L. Crawford, whose daughter provided this fact.
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