Some Law Enforcement Officers Colluding With White Nationalist and Militia Groups
(June 8, 2020) — In 2006, a report by the FBI warned of white nationalists and skinheads infiltrating police departments across the country. The penetration of police departments by white nationalists/supremacists, the exchange of racist tweets and email, and the covert cooperation between some departments with members of militia organizations have been happening for many years.
A new report by the Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights (IREHR) titled, Dangerous Liaisons: Some in Law Enforcement Look to Militia Groups, “found evidence that militia activists mobilizing around the protests [after the murder of George Floyd] have gained support and alliances with law enforcement officers in several states. This has occurred specifically as paramilitary activists have attempted to assume quasi-security roles vis-a-vis protests in Texas, Utah, and Washington State.”
Dangerous Liaisons written by Chuck Tanner and Devin Burghart, points out that while ‘’the protests demanding justice for George Floyd, and an end to police racism, have mobilized people across the country. … [and] as these protests have unfolded, nationalist militias, boogaloo boys, and other far-right and racist activists have inserted themselves into the protests in various ways in dozens of instances across the country. … In this fluid context, IREHR has found evidence that militia activists mobilizing around the protests have gained support and alliances with law enforcement officers in several states.”
The report provides details about the activities of John Shirley, a constable for Precinct 2 in southern Hood County, Texas, a county of some 51,000 people just southwest of Fort Worth, and a member of the Board of Directors of Oath Keepers, “the far-right nationalist paramilitary organization that has promoted anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim bigotry and mobilized during several armed confrontations with the federal government over public lands issues.”
It also notes that “the Three Percenters – Original claimed that their Utah chapter helped police ‘set up a defensive perimeter around the SPLD Emergency Command Post.’ According to the group, ‘The Utah Chapter held this perimeter against the rioters from Saturday afternoon, through the night and into Sunday.’ The national group posted an image of the police with an apparent Utah Three Percenters – Original member, their faces blurred in a seeming attempt to mask their identities.”
Dangerous Liaisons maintains that “American trust in police has been shaken to the core in the wake of the recorded murder of George Floyd and repeated instances of police violence against peaceful protesters. This distrust can only be exacerbated by police alliances with far-right militias that promote anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, espouse bigotry toward Muslims and immigrants, advocate shooting people for looting, and, in the case of Jeff Colter, openly call for the murder of [George Soros] a prominent Jewish philanthropist.
Police relationships with far right organizations is not a new phenomenon. In December 1969, The Vortex, an underground newspaper in Lawrence, Kansas, ran a front page headline that read “Chief Pig Kelley Sells Guns to the Minutemen.” The “Chief Pig Kelley” in the headline referred to Clarence Kelley, the then Police Chief of Kansas City, Missouri, who later became the head of Richard Nixon’s FBI.
Inside the issue, accompanied by a selection of re-printed documents given to us by the Kansas City Chapter of the Black Panther Party, a story revealed that Kelley’s Police Department was selling confiscated weapons to the Minutemen. The Minutemen was a radical right-wing organization, headed by Robert DePugh, and based in Liberty, Missouri.
In 2006, “the FBI detailed the threat of white nationalists and skinheads infiltrating police in order to disrupt investigations against fellow members and recruit other supremacists,” NPR’s Kenta Downs reported in October 2016. “The bulletin was released during a period of scandal for many law enforcement agencies throughout the country, including a neo-Nazi gang formed by members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department who harassed black and Latino communities. Similar investigations revealed officers and entire agencies with hate group ties in Illinois, Ohio and Texas.”
According to Downs, “Much of the bulletin has been redacted, but in it, the FBI identified white supremacists in law enforcement as a concern, because of their access to both ‘restricted areas vulnerable to sabotage’ and elected officials or people who could be seen as ‘potential targets for violence.’ The memo also warned of “ghost skins,” hate group members who don’t overtly display their beliefs in order to ‘blend into society and covertly advance white supremacist causes.’”
In a June 2019 exhaustive investigation of thousands of Facebook postings, Reveal’s Will Carless and Michael; Corey found that “Hundreds of active-duty and retired law enforcement officers from across the United States are members of Confederate, anti-Islam, misogynistic or anti-government militia groups on Facebook.”
Reveal pointed out that “These cops have worked at every level of American law enforcement, from tiny, rural sheriff’s departments to the largest agencies in the country, such as the Los Angeles and New York police departments. They work in jails and schools and airports, on boats and trains and in patrol cars. And, Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting discovered, they also read and contribute to groups such as ‘White Lives Matter’ and ‘DEATH TO ISLAM UNDERCOVER.’”
The Reveal investigation “focused exclusively on officers who we could confirm were still actively working, rather than retired, and met at least one of the following criteria: interacted with an extremist group, proactively joined an extremist group, or posted denigrating content on their own public pages and were members of extremist groups.”
“Unfortunately,” IREHR’s Chuck Tanner told me in an email, police involvement with militia groups “is a good deal more prevalent than we have documented. We already have additional leads that we’re looking into. The cover of being defenders of private property provides a ready-made entry point for far right paramilitary groups to make such inroads. Community members and law enforcement at every level need to stand up and put an end to this type of alliance.”
“Even basic self-interest suggests law enforcement should stay far away these groups, as members have killed many police officers,” Dangerous Liaisons As recently as May 21, 2020, a militia leader was arrested in a plot to kidnap and kill cops to attract new followers.
“It should go without saying that police should in no way associate with far-right militias. If trust is to be regained, law officers in Nevada, Texas, Washington State and beyond must speak out strongly and end these relationships with nationalist paramilitaries.’’
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