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Protectors of Privilege: Red Squads and Police Repression in Urban America

5 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0520080355
ISBN-10: 0520080351
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Donner documents the history of local countersubversion efforts on the part of city police forces, detailing their abuses of power.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Donner, a civil liberties lawyer, last wrote The Age of Surveillance (a "powerful and signficant study," LJ 5/1/80), about federal suppression of political dissent. Viewing city police as "the protective arm . . . of the capitalist system," Donner here documents the history of local countersubversion units, focusing on Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, and Los Angeles. Repression flourished in the 1960s and early 1970s but was largely curtailed thereafter in reaction to Watergate. Donner presents a litany of police harassment and abuse, including undercover agents who incited the violence they supposedly were hired to prevent. Rather dense prose, with many footnotes and 100 pages of references, gear this book primarily to research and legal collections. A worthwhile, albeit strongly opinionated, contribution.
- Gregor A. Preston, Univ. of California Lib., Davis
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (September 30, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520080351
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520080355
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,512,227 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By T. bailey on September 25, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Book review by The Los Angeles Times, January 20, 1991

... The cops love these free-wheeling, elite units. They were ostensibly created to combat terrorism, but have been used mostly to infiltrate and suppress liberal and radical political organizations and civil rights groups. They lift their members out of the routine of police work into something of a James Bond life. As Frank Donner points out in this excellently researched, thoughtful and well-detailed study of police spying, their excesses have been many. But Donner, who directed the American Civil Liberties Project on Political Surveillance, concludes with the chilling thought that the Red squads will be around long after there are any Reds.

Why wouldn't the police like them? The elite Red squads work on their own, usually reporting directly to the chief, operating outside normal department procedures. That's dangerous. Even worse, the squads are concerned more with political attitudes than with crime.

Their targets are chosen according to the narrow, conservative political views of the police and usually are selected in a Keystone Cop fashion. Among the Los Angeles Public Disorder and Intelligence Division (PDID) targets, for example, was the organization advocating help for Soviet Jewry. This was an anti-Kremlin movement, but the intricacies of that obviously were too much for the PDID.

Worse yet, the information, and misinformation, gathered by these sleuths is fed into the growing number of intelligence networks maintained by federal, state and local law-enforcement organizations. In the computer age, if you attend a left-wing meeting in Echo Park, your name is likely to be spread as far as New York.

As Donner points out, the squads are not a recent invention.
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Format: Paperback
I read this book around 2006. I believe this book to be a factual report on the author's research and to be highly credible.

Frank Donner was a lawyer specializing in civil rights law. He died in 1993. I consider Mr. Donner to be a hero for writing this book.

This book documents massive law enforcement law-breaking conducted over several decades. The Center for Investigative Reporting labels this book the "definitive 1990 book on domestic intelligence gathering."

Every citizen of the United States should be required to read this book.

People do not want to believe that law enforcement officers would break the law. But law enforcement officers allow their personal feelings and political views to influence their on-the-job behavior.

This book is very detailed and has 78 pages of notes.
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An important documentation of the history of governmental surveillance in the US. The only book I've found so far that reports on police infiltration and "counter-intelligence" activities during the 1960s, in particular.
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