Interview with Howard Saffold

And you saw some very interesting dynamics--


Oh, yes, yes, yes. They--I was in the task force prior to that. And, uh, the task force had been used during the 1968 Democratic Convention, to sort of beat down young, White protestors. That was the first time Chicago, I don't know about the rest of America, but I was watching Chicago. That was the first time White people in Chicago realized that the police were actually brutal. They could be very, very brutal. And, and, and our, uh, hue and cry for relief in terms of Black victims, uh, uh, was sort of vindicated as a result of the 1968 Democratic Convention. After that convention turmoil and, and, and, a few reports that came out, etc., the police department started to shift personnel around. So I was moved from the task force, I was given an opportunity to go into the gang crimes unit. That's what it was called, in the gang intelligence unit. And basically, the, the initial purpose for going into the unit, they were bringing Black guys in because young, Black gangs had started to spring up and were getting rather rambunctious in terms of committing crimes against each other, committing crimes against businesses in the Black community, and _et cetera_. Um, my, my intent was to be a part of, of curtailing that and, and, and trying to bring some, some, uh, some, uh, uh, safety back to, to, to my own respective community. Well, at the same time the Panthers were pursuing uh, uh, uh, an ideology that said, "We need to take these young minds, this young energy, and, and turn it into part of our movement in terms of Black liberation and the rest of it." And, and I saw a very purposeful, intentional, uh, effort on the part of the police department to keep that head from hooking up to that body. It was like, you know, "Do not let this thing become a part of what could ultimately be a political movement," because that's exactly what it was.**. And, uh, so consequently, yes, I was put into a unit that, um, went from the gang intelligence unit to what they called, they called me a member of the Panther Squad. And what that was was to go to the public meetings, they didn't actually infiltrate the organization. But go to the public meetings, and see if you could come back with a report, 'cause they were piecing together 50 or 60 different pieces of information to try to figure out what was really going on within that, in that, um, um, community. Um, needless to say, uh, it got to be a joke after a while because the, the Panthers would start, one of the, one of the, whoever was conducting the meeting would say, "Would the, would the pigs please leave?" You know, then half the room would get up and walk out, you know. 'Cause it had got that bad, I mean, everybody was in the Panthers. So, um, that was probably the only humorous part of it, because there were, um, some Black officers who seriously wanted to make a distinction between the criminal element, and our young men who were trying to find themselves in terms of, you know, "What role do I play in this, this rather complex society?" And I think that, um, my own outspokenness, um, uh, and being part of an organization such as the Afro-American Police League made it very easy for them to say, "Well, we don't think you're very happy here." Um, I'm sure they didn't trust me. Um, I'm sure I wouldn't have been told any secrets, um, that, uh, that they didn't want anybody to know, and I wasn't trying to be any kind of double agent. It was just a matter of principle for us.