BY GOLIATH J. DAVIS, III, PH.D., Contributor
ST. PETERSBURG — In 1965, 12 courageous African-American police officers filed suit against the City of St. Petersburg to fully integrate the St. Petersburg Police Department, where prior to their ultimate victory, African- American officers were relegated to a doctrine of separate and unequal. They dressed in a separate locker room, drove separate cars when available, only worked the black community and were not allowed to arrest white law violators.
The two living members of the Courageous Twelve, Freddie Lee Crawford and Leon Jackson became one when on June 1, the community gathered to funeralize Officer Crawford.
Fred’s family gave me the high honor of speaking at the funeral of my mentor and friend. During my presentation, I reminded the community of the promise made to Officers Crawford and Jackson and issued a call to action to ensure the promise is kept.
Specifically, the city promised a memorial would be erected in the lobby of the new police station honoring the Courageous Twelve and their landmark contribution to law enforcement in St. Petersburg, Tampa Bay, the state of Florida and the nation.
The call to action is necessary because to date, the promise made is effectively a “promise broken.”
The local chapter of the NAACP answered the call to action. The organization’s engagement in this social justice issue is so appropriate given the role the national chapter played in securing the initial victory.
A thoughtful letter signed by NAACP President Maria L. Scruggs was sent to Police Chief Anthony Holloway, and she requested support from our African elected officials. Officer Jackson and family members of the 11 deceased members of the group also support a “keep the promise” movement.
The appeals court was clear and deliberate in its ruling in the case of the Courageous Twelve (Adam Baker v. the City of St. Petersburg), noting the ruling in no way suggests the officers should be given preferential treatment. The court held “they deserve[d] only what they [sought]—equality.”
The officers also deserve a monument worthy of the sacrifices they and their families made for justice, civil rights and the betterment of law enforcement for all officers, regardless of race, gender or ethnicity. They deserve what was promised, and I hope the promise made will be a promise kept, and confrontation and discord will not be needed to make the promise a reality.