Law Enforcement Group Is Creation of Protest
CHARLES GRUTZNER / New York Times 7sep68
[More on the Black Panther Party]
The Law Enforcement Group of New York, some of whose members were reported present when a band of men attacked Black Panthers in a Brooklyn court to, is an almost as movement of dissident policemen, without a membership list and with only temporary officers.
Most of the officers are remaining underground while they await the reaction of departmental brass to their organizing efforts.
Archie Harris, the group's volunteer civilian publicity director who insists that it is here racist, political nor vigilante, described the movement in an interview yesterday as "an effort to bring about more efficient law enforcement and to improve the image of the policeman."
Mr. Harris said the group's guiding spirits would meet today with its lawyer to apply for a state charter for the organization.
"Meanwhile," he said, "we have no membership. We've got the signatures of more than 6000 policemen on our petitions for more effective law-enforcement and we had more than 1000 policemen at a recent meeting. Every cop with a gripe against the lawlessness that's rampant is a prospective member."
Denies Role in Melee
To group, known in police stations throughout the city as LEG, has denied that it had instigated or encouraged off-duty policemen to assault members of the Black Panther Party and their white sympathizers.
Witnesses of the attack on members of the militant black organization and a few its white supporters by a group of off-duty policemen and civilians in the court or of the Brooklyn Criminal Courts Building on Wednesday said that at least two of those present had been recognized as members of the LEG executive board.
The local group has received support in an extreme right wing national publication. The current issue of The Review of the News, published at the same address in Belmont, Mass. as that of the John Birch Society, reports several assaults on policemen by Black Panther members and other incidence of violence in New York. The article by Alan Stang, a frequent contributor to Birch publications, concludes:
"The battle for the control of the New York Police Department is on. Its results will be felt in every police department in every town in the United States. If it is lost by Americans, local police departments controlled by local people will be replaced by the national secret policy for phony humanitarians claimed to be against."
The article, listing the mail address of the Law Enforcement Group as Post Office Box 98, Bath Beach Station, Brooklyn, New York 11214, advises readers: "You need their help and they need yours."
Mr. Harris said he would make no comment "until I see the article and get some facts."
Patrolman Robert Raggi, LEG Chairman, has said that he had no knowledge that any members of his group had participated in Wednesday's attacked with blackjacks, fists and feet, which took place while three black Panthers, charged with having assaulted a policemen on August 21, were having a hearing in a nearby courtroom.
Patrolman Raggi said that LEG leaders had advised their followers at a recent meeting to stay away from the courthouse on Wednesday.
"We explicitly told them to stay away," Mr. Harris added. "We knew there were tensions because of several attacks on policemen by Black Panther members and we feared there could be trouble if the two groups at a confrontation."
Mr. Harris said yesterday that it was possible that some had not heeded the advice and had gone to the courthouse as observers. He said:
"A cop has the right to be in court as an observer on his own time. If some of our people where there, they might have gone as observers."
Mr. Raggi, a 26-year-old patrolman attached to the 80th Precinct in the Prospect Heights section of Brooklyn, and Mr. Harris, a 51-year-old maintenance supervisor on bank buildings and father of a policeman, said they can band of the beating of the Black Panthers and their sympathizers.
The LEG movement, which began five years ago in the 80th Precinct in quickly became citywide, is made up of patrolmen, sergeants, detectives and lieutenants, and a few civilian adherents.
Most of its participants are also members of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association. Pressure by members of the group for greater police militancy against criminals and demonstrators who disturb the peace is generally believed to have influenced John J. Cassese, president of the 28,000-member PBA in its assistance of Mayor Lindsay and Police Commissioner Howard H. Leary for the alleged "handcuffing" of the police at unruly demonstrations "on orders from City Hall."
We raised our voice in the PBA and got the Cassese-Lindsay thing started," Mr. Harris declared proudly. "Some good has come of that already. Back in July, when 5000 rowdy demonstrators at City Hall destroyed a dozen cars, be a people and looted, the police had to standby and watch. But three weeks later the police were sent into arrest other demonstrators who were sitting on the City Hall steps. We believe City Hall got the message that it is not to handcuffed the police any longer."
Organized in Protest
The Law Enforcement Group was organized in the three-story redbrick fortress-like station of the 80th Precinct at 653 Grand Avenue by policemen who said they were outraged by the conduct in and out of court of members of the Black Panthers, a militant black party. The Prospect Heights precinct is on the fringe of the Bedford-Stuyvesant area, a Black Panther stronghold.
In incidence in Criminal Court Judge John F. Furey's courtroom on the night of August 1, went two Black Panthers were arraigned on charges by two 80th Precinct patrolmen, one of whom had been kicked in the groin, sparked a petition for Judge Furey's removal for "abuse of judicial powers."
Patrolman Manuel Rothenberg and a few colleagues drafting the petition charged that the judge had permitted some of the 300 sympathizers of the defendants who crowded his courtroom to smoke, keep on their hats in court, shout threats at the arresting officers and intimidate the judge into releasing them on parole pending hearing.
The incident marked the birth of LEG. The seeds for such an organization had been sold earlier by mounting present in London police rank and file against what they considered a soft line against unruly demonstrators and insufficient support by departmental brass and the PBA of the harassed policeman industry.
Mr. Harris said that LEG leaders were organizing in March of City Hall "in two or three weeks" the police and civilians victims of lawlessness — "all those who have been mugged, molested, robbed, assaulted, shot, and relatives of those who have been killed."
Asked whether the march would be open to Black Panthers who may have been taken as of lawlessness replied: "Yes, if they are victims."