FBI: White Supremacists have infiltrated law enforcement agencies
The FBI was worried that a report detailing the infiltration of law enforcement agencies would trigger conservative backlash. Whatever happened to “sunshine is the best disinfectant”?
WHITE SUPREMACISTS AND other domestic extremists maintain an active presence in U.S. police departments and other law enforcement agencies. A striking reference to that conclusion, notable for its confidence and the policy prescriptions that accompany it, appears in a classified FBI Counterterrorism Policy Guide from April 2015, obtained by The Intercept. The guide, which details the process by which the FBI enters individuals on a terrorism watchlist, the Known or Suspected Terrorist File, notes that “domestic terrorism investigations focused on militia extremists, white supremacist extremists, and sovereign citizen extremists often have identified active links to law enforcement officers,” and explains in some detail how bureau policies have been crafted to take this infiltration into account.
Although these right-wing extremists have posed a growing threat for years, federal investigators have been reluctant to publicly address that threat or to point out the movement’s longstanding strategy of infiltrating the law enforcement community.
No centralized recruitment process or set of national standards exists for the 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States, many of which have deep historical connections to racist ideologies. As a result, state and local police as well as sheriff’s departments present ample opportunities for white supremacists and other right-wing extremists looking to expand their power base.
Although the FBI has not publicly addressed the issue of white supremacist infiltration of law enforcement since that 2006 report, in a 2015 speech, FBI Director James Comey made an unprecedented acknowledgment of the role historically played by law enforcement in communities of color: “All of us in law enforcement must be honest enough to acknowledge that much of our history is not pretty.” Comey and the agency have been less forthcoming about that history’s continuation into the present.
Critics fear that the backlash following [a] 2009 DHS report hindered further action against the growing white supremacist threat, and that it was largely ignored because the issue was so politically controversial. “I believe that because that report was so denounced by conservatives, it sort of closed the door on whatever the FBI may have been considering doing with respect to combating infiltration of law enforcement by white supremacists,” said Samuel Jones, a professor of law at the John Marshall Law School in Chicago who has written about white power ideology in law enforcement. “Because after the 2006 FBI report, we simply cannot find anything by local law enforcement or the federal government that addresses this issue.”
Pete Simi, a sociologist at Chapman University who spent decades studying the proliferation of white supremacists in the U.S. military, agreed. “The report underscores the problem of even discussing this issue. It underscores how difficult this issue is to get any traction on, because a lot of people don’t want to discuss this, let alone actually do something about it.” Simi said that the extremist strategy to infiltrate the military and law enforcement has existed “for decades.” In a study he conducted of individuals indicted for far-right terrorism-related activities, he found that at least 31 percent had military experience.
“Local, state, federal agencies, all to some extent have their hands tied, because it’s not necessarily against the law to be a member of a domestic hate group” said Simi, noting the military as the one exception because of its unique legal status. For instance, the U.S. government considers the KKK a hate group — but membership in the group is not illegal. That’s the case for all domestic hate or extremist groups, though authorities can choose to target their members under conspiracy statutes, Simi said.
Most police departments don’t screen prospective officers for hate group affiliation. The SPLC has reported that the number of these groups peaked at more than 1,000 in 2011, from less than half that in the late 1990s, though experts like Simi note that many of these groups “come and go” and membership between them is often fluid.
The full Intercept article is worth your time. The majority of law enforcers are professional and conscientious – but if you have had doubts that there may be a racial animus behind the brutalization and killing of minority citizens by some cops, you need to read the full article.
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