1975.04.01: Secret “Alpha File” Kept on Black Youth (Red Tide)

Alpha File

Red Tide #17
April 1975

Secret “Alpha File” Kept on Black Youth
[By Michael Letwin]

Los Angeles—The Alpha File is a secret police file being kept on at least 200 young black people under the age of 18. Also known as the “Data Disposition Coordination Project,” the Alpha File is described by the Los Angeles Police Dept. as a “pilot project” to monitor the activities of “dangerous hoodlums, gang members and troublemakers.”

This file, in effect since October 1973, is used jointly by the police, schools, parole boards and the courts.

All of the above named agencies can find out the information in the file by calling and stating a coded message to the Alpha File Operator.

For the third time in recent months, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a lawsuit to have the Alpha File destroyed.


These files can be used for expulsion from school, denial of a job, or probation. [B]ut despite all of this, individuals have no idea that they are being watched. The LAPD encourages social workers, bus drivers, teachers, parks and recreation workers, and housing authority officials to become regular informers to the file coordinator. The police absolutely refuse to disclose the names of the people included in the file.

Because the list is so closely guarded, there is now way for anyone who is affected by the file to question or challenge any “information.”


The file contains the names of solely black youth. It is a clearly racist institution that does not offer any explanation for what is actually in it, or how it is used. As the ACLU says, “There is no way to challenge it, no standard criteria used, no checks against abuse, no verification of the facts. As a result these juveniles are branded as violent murderers and hoodlums and they are treated as such by schools, police, courts and the probation dept.”


The City of Los Angeles is not just satisfied with the creation of a grapevine of informers and stooges that affects the lives of hundreds of young people. It has asked the federal government for a $50,000 grant from the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA) to help fund the project during the next six months. The police say that if the Alpha File proves “successful,” they will try to expand it to other areas.


The Alpha File is not alone in the arsenal of weapons that the government, and particularly the police[,] have to use against minority and working class youth. The increasing amount of police in the schools, armed security guards, and the like, all fit into the general pattern. Far from coming to an end through massive publicity, these types of things are growing at an incredible rate. For all the talk about trying to improve the economy and the general situation of this society in terms of needed social services, schools, etc., this is the real response of the government.

[Historical Note: The Red Tide was a revolutionary high school underground newspaper and youth organization that existed from 1971-1981. See: http://theredtide.wordpress.com/]



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