Uncovered Files Detail Ohio Police Surveillance
Associated Press, July 16, 2012
TOLEDO – Long-lost files uncovered when a storage trailer was unloaded unveiled years of secret surveillance by an Ohio police department on anti-war activists, organizations and others.
Ken Dickson, author of several books about Toledo area history, had asked to access the files for his research on organized crime and eventually took his request to court.
No one could locate the files, and Kenneth Deck, founder of the police museum and the only person who knew the contents of the storage site, had died. The intelligence documents did not resurface until 2010, when the new Toledo Police Museum opened and museum volunteers unpacked the trailer.
The documents detail the police intelligence unit’s surveillance work from 1967 to 1973, according to The (Toledo) Blade.
Organized crime and illegal gambling were the unit’s main priorities, but it also gathered information on organizations spanning the political spectrum, from the KKK and White Panthers to the Students for a Democratic Society, the National Socialist Party and Black Panthers.
“We would surveil them when they came into town. We’d identify who they were, who their leaders were, who they were meeting with, who they were recruiting,” said Gene Fodor, a detective who worked with the intelligence unit from 1965 until it was dissolved in 1977.
He recalled one of the unit’s tactics to infiltrate and win the trust of the groups it monitored.
Along with several other officers, Fodor would attend an organization’s meeting and wait for speakers to denounce law enforcement, as they often did. Then, with a burst of apparent outrage, he would rise and point out his fellow undercover officers. The groups would kick out those officers and welcome Fodor into their ranks, unaware that he, too, was a part of the system they opposed.
Many of the reports include personal information such as dates of birth, Social Security numbers, hair and eye color, height and weight, addresses, employment status, typical clothing style, and romantic relations.
The archives of the intelligence unit were housed in the original Toledo Police Historic Museum, but when it closed in 1994, retired police Officer Bill Kellar stored the files in the back of a semitrailer.
Sgt. Joe Heffernan, current Toledo police spokesman, was unaware of the intelligence unit’s surveillance of political activities and the existence of the unit’s files. He declined to comment on the intelligence documents specifically but said the department only collects information on criminal organizations and activities.
A member of one of the groups under surveillance, David Reaven, then a freshman at the University of Toledo, said he was unaware of police surveillance of his SDS activities, but the intelligence unit had its eye on him.
Reports on meetings regularly note his attendance, and on two grainy, black-and-white photographs, his name is written in stark red pencil and underlined, with an arrow pointing to a clean cut and bespectacled young man.
“I’m shocked, really, that they were watching us. We were really very small at the time, maybe only five or 10 regular members,” said Reaven, now a computer analyst living in California. “But maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. There was a lot of that happening at the time.”