2006 - Actual white supremacist cops are hiding in plain sight
The FBI investigation of far-right extremists on the force
With recent protests focusing on the often racist results of law enforcement agencies around the country, it’s worth remembering that the FBI itself at one point looked into a more serious, deliberate version of that problem.
Louisiana police officer Raymond Mott (left) was fired after this photo of him surfaced doing a Nazi salute with a KKK member during an anti-immigration rally.
In 2006, the bureau compiled an intelligence report concerning a growing threat to the country’s police departments. The document, titled “White Supremacist Infiltration of Law Enforcement,” warned of right-wing extremists’ efforts to join the ranks of local police forces. And yet for all the urgency conveyed by the report, it admitted the problem was far from newfangled. “White supremacist leaders and groups,” it states, “have historically shown an interest in infiltrating law enforcement or recruiting law enforcement personnel.”
To some, especially those in heavily-policed communities, this might hardly seem like news at all. And indeed, the tradition does go back decades. Larrissa Moore, a law student who has studied reams of Civil Rights-era murder records, explained to Fusion how the Klan encouraged its members to infiltrate the ranks of law enforcement. This effort began as early as the 1960s, a time when social progress was weakening the Klan’s ability to terrorize black lives. According to Moore, they believed that the laws wouldn’t “apply to them if they are the law.”
In recent years, the entanglement of law enforcement and white supremacy has gotten a fair amount of press. In September, police officer Raymond Mott was fired after a photo surfaced of him performing a Nazi salute at an anti-immigration rally. The year before, two Florida officers were fired when they were found having ties to the KKK. And in 2001, a similar story occurred when two deputies in Texas who had a strong allegiance to the Klan were dismissed.
These recent cases bring to mind an infiltration strategy outlined by the FBI report called “ghost skins,” a method in which members of white supremacist groups modulate their behavior and appearance in order to “to blend into society and covertly advance white supremacist causes.”
Yet, what’s most disturbing is the way such an infiltration could endanger the lives of civilians. One of the most eminent examples is the Lynwood Vikings, a white supremacist, neo-Nazi gang with firm roots in the Los Angeles County sheriff’s department. Their most infamous moment followed a campaign of racially-motivated violence and “wanton abuses of power” in the 90s, after which a judge awarded a massive $7.5 million dollar settlement to the group’s trail of victims. There is also John Burge, a Chicago police officer with reputed KKK ties who tortured over 100 black inmates, making gruesome use of items like plastic bags and car batteries.
Troublingly, the chief concern of the FBI report is that white supremacist infiltration may contribute to “investigative breaches and can jeopardize the safety of law enforcement sources and personnel.” In other words, the priorities are tactical, regarding how the agencies may be affected, rather than what the presence of white supremacist staff might mean for those being policed.