On multiple Fraternal Order of Police websites, they state that Robert F. Kennedy was opposed to Police Review boards and called them a "sinister movement against law enforcement" as described below on the Idaho FOP website for example:

During the 1960s the FOP opposed the creation of police review boards, spearheaded by Robert F. Kennedy, at one point describing them as a "sinister movement against law enforcement". The FOP also clashed with the ACLU on the issue of police brutality, seeing it as a "liberal attempt to discredit law enforcement". The Order was "heartened by Richard Nixon's emphasis on law and order", though it remained strictly apolitical.[4]

The only reference I could find for this quote was a small blurb about a book by Alvin J. Schmidt, who has some...interesting beliefs to say the least and therefore quite biased. Therefore I looked for other sources that corroborates this. The closest thing I found was that Robert F. Kennedy cited a poll by the John Kraft society that people wanted "more police protection" but this is a far cry away from opposing civilian review boards:

The John Kraft organization has conducted a number of polls in Negro and Puerto Rican neighborhoods in New York City, in which it asked people to list their problems. Crime came out "at the head of the list". What the people want, the Kraft group concludes, is "more police protection". And the Kraft report continues: "Problems of 'police brutality'-in all these surveys-are conspicuous by their absence". What people want is more police presence rather than less.


Given that the source for this quote is very biased at best, is there a more reputable source that confirms Robert F. Kennedy's opposition to police review boards in the 1960's?

  • 5
    I think you're misreading the quoted passage. It appears to be saying that RFK (who was for a time head of the US Justice Department) was pushing to create the boards, and the Fraternal Order of Police was against them. The quote is being attributed to the FOP, not to Kennedy.
    – T.E.D.
    Nov 30, 2021 at 21:04
  • 1
    Ah....yeah the punctuation doesn't help either. I assumed the movement to oppose police review boards was the "spearheading" referred to in the next clause.
    – isakbob
    Nov 30, 2021 at 21:19

1 Answer 1


No. This question seems to be based on a misinterpretation of the text within the given quote.

During the 1960s the FOP opposed the creation of police review boards, spearheaded by Robert F. Kennedy, at one point describing them as a "sinister movement against law enforcement".

This might have been more clear if it had been written like this (my words):

..the FOP opposed police review boards, the creation of which had been spearheaded by Robert F. Kennedy, at one point describing them as a "sinister movement against law enforcement".

This information is repeated in the Wikipedia article on the FOP. That article lists a source, The book Fraternal Organizations, by Alvin Schmidt This book can be borrowed at archive.org, and here is what is actually said (pg 264)

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So we can see the questioned quote 'sinister movement against law enforcement' is actually from a 'letter from the society's national president in 1962.

The fact that Kennedy was in support of the review boards can be illustrated by these 1966 NY Times headlines (emphasis mine)

Kennedy and Javits Speak Out To Keep Civilian Review Board;

Senators Robert F. Kennedy and Jacob K. Javits teamed up yesterday to campaign for the Police Department's Civilian Complaint Review Board, but promptly broke apart and engaged in a brief, unscheduled and utterly amicable debate over the race for Governor.

(Note RFK was a Democrat, while Jacob Javits was a Republican. Hence the debate over the Governors race)

CITY POLICE BOARD CALLED U.S. ISSUE; Kennedy, Javits and Lindsay Back Review Body

Senator Robert F. Kennedy, Senator Jacob K. Javits and Mayor Lindsay promised a major campaign yesterday to retain the Police Department's Civilian Complaint Review Board

Mayor Lindsay mentioned here is John L Lindsay, who was the individual whose attempt to reorganize this review board, placing a majority of civilians in a position which had previously been controlled entirely by law enforcement members, was the subject being addressed here.

A background on this issue can be seen in an article here on Police Corruption and the Civilian Review Board

First, some background: Civilian review had existed in New York for over a decade, but until Lindsay had had no civilian presence on its governing board. Lindsay restructured the board to include 7 members, four of whom were civilians vetted by Lindsay, with the rest of the board and its staff comprising members of the Police Department. John Cassese, then president of The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, the main union of New York's Finest, was having none of it, drawing implicit racial undertones to the fore: “I am sick and tired of giving in to minority groups, with their whims and their gripes and shouting. Any review board with civilians on it is detrimental to the operations of the police department.” The PBA swiftly drafted a referendum combating Lindsay's new board, to be voted on by the citizens of New York City on November 8, 1966.

Lindsay also later creates the Knapp Commission to further investigate allegations of corruption in the NYC Police Department. (see also Frank Serpico).

Robert Kennedy was known for his fight against organized crime, and fighting corruption within the police department would naturally align with this goal.

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