Nazis, nazis everywhere. Under every rock, and we are all on extremely rocky ground right now. I skimmed an article about this the other day, but I wasn’t in a state to pay much attention. I’m not feeling much better now that I have paid attention. I don’t think it’s been any sort of secret that policing often attracts less than ideal personalities for the job; nor that many cops are bigoted as all hells. Given all the murders committed by cops every year, most of them against people of colour, handily demonstrate the bigotry and reliance on stereotypes which afflict way too many cops. This is an old, old story, as old as policing itself, and it’s a rare cop shop which truly tries to combat vicious and dangerous bigotry, and where cops with a conscience will stand up and speak out. Unfortunately, the news is worse. Nazis. Nazis who do need a stinking badge, and rely on that badge to recruit.
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.
That last is such a massive problem, and always has been – the one way to clean up policing is for there to be strict standards, recruitment and otherwise, across the board. None of the individual states doing their own thing anymore. Yeah, I know, ‘merica, land of the stubborn asshole of “independence”. That’s gotten us nowhere except in the bottom of hole, with out of control authoritarian fantasists playing with military gear.
In a heavily redacted version of an October 2006 FBI internal intelligence assessment, the agency raised the alarm over white supremacist groups’ “historical” interest in “infiltrating law enforcement communities or recruiting law enforcement personnel.” The effort, the memo noted, “can lead to investigative breaches and can jeopardize the safety of law enforcement sources or personnel.” The memo also states that law enforcement had recently become aware of the term “ghost skins,” used among white supremacists to describe “those who avoid overt displays of their beliefs to blend into society and covertly advance white supremacist causes.” In at least one case, the FBI learned of a skinhead group encouraging ghost skins to seek employment with law enforcement agencies in order to warn crews of any investigations.
Ghost skins. Regardless of the silly name, I expect most of us have known at least one person who avoids overt displays in public and around people they don’t know, but in private settings allows their bigotry to rage. I grew up with one, and I’ve known too many more.
Reforming police, as it turns out, is a lot harder than reforming the military, because of the decentralized way in which the thousands of police departments across the country operate, the historical affinity of certain police departments with the same racial ideologies espoused by extremists, and an even broader reluctance to do much about it.
“If you look at the history of law enforcement in the United States, it is a history of white supremacy, to put it bluntly,” said Simi, citing the origin of U.S. policing in the slave patrols of the 18th and 19th centuries. “More recently, just going back 50 years, law enforcement, particularly in the South, was filled with Klan members.”
Norm Stamper, a former chief of the Seattle Police Department and vocal advocate for police reform, told The Intercept that white supremacy was not simply a matter of history. “There are police agencies throughout the South and beyond that come from that tradition,” he said. “To think that that kind of thinking has dissolved somehow is myopic at best.”
Stamper said he had fired officers who expressed racist views, but added, “It’s not likely to happen in most police departments, because many of those departments come from a tradition of saying the officer is entitled to his or her opinions.”
When you stop and look, and start paying attention, the sheer magnitude of instances protecting white supremacists is overwhelming. In the States, the nazis still have “good guy” status, putting white, male, christian, and hetero on a pedestal, shot through with the poisonous ideology of superiority.
“This is a fundamental problem in this country: We simply do not take this flexible, and forgiving, and exceptionally understanding approach for combating any other form of terrorism,” said Jones. “Anybody who’s on social media advocating support for ISIS can be criminally charged with very little effort.”
“For some reason, we have stepped away from the threat of domestic terrorism and right-wing extremism,” Jones continued. “The only way we can reconcile this kind of behavior is if we accept the possibility that the ideology that permeates white nationalists and white supremacists is something that many in our federal and law enforcement communities understand and may be in sympathy with.”
That sympathy might just be reflected by the election of a president who was endorsed and celebrated by the KKK, and who has been reluctant to disassociate himself from individuals espousing white supremacist views.
We are years beyond stepping away from the threat of domestic and right-wing terrorism. Too many Americans are intent on erasing the very idea of home grown terrorists. Unlike other countries, America has dealt with one major outside terrorist event, and yes, it was awful. It was also 15 years ago. In that 15 years, pretty much everything has been done in the worst possible way, and the refusal to deal with our rising nazi problem, and the problem of out of control cops continues to not only plague us, but to make every single one of us very unsafe, every day. We need to stop being afraid to face the truth.
The full, in-depth article is at The Intercept.