"In near prophetic fashion," Samuel V. Jones writes for TheGrio.com, "after the FBI's warning, white supremacy extremism in the U.S. increased, exponentially. From 2008 to 2014, the number of white supremacist groups, reportedly, grew from 149 to nearly a thousand, with no apparent abatement in their infiltration of law enforcement."
Jones, who now teaches at The John Marshall Law School, notes that in 2015, "at least seven San Francisco law enforcement officers were suspended after an investigation revealed they exchanged numerous 'White Power' communications laden with remarks about 'lynching African-Americans and burning crosses.' Three reputed Klan members that served as correction officers were arrested for conspiring to murder a black inmate. At least four Fort Lauderdale police officers were fired after an investigation found that the officers fantasized about killing black suspects."
Last year, you may recall, two police officers in Fruitland Park, Fla., one of them the deputy chief, were exposed as members of the Ku Klux Klan. According to the Orlando Sentinel, in 2009 another Fruitland Park police officer resigned after he was photographed simultaneously wearing his uniform and his Klan robe and hood. What struck me about the Fruitland Park story was a remark given to the Orlando Sentinel by Florida's chief deputy state attorney. He said, "It's not a crime to be a member of the KKK, even if you are the deputy chief."
In the 2006 FBI report that Jones cites in his essay. "The Ku Klux Klan," the report says, "is notable among white supremacist groups for historically having found support in many communities, which often translated into ties to local law enforcement. " The report continues: "Although the First Amendment's freedom of association provision protects an individual's right to join white supremacist groups for purposes of lawful activity, the government can limit the employment opportunities of group members who hold sensitive public sector jobs, including jobs within law enforcement, when their membership would interfere with their duties."
It would seem that membership in the Klan would interfere with a chief deputy's duties. Or am I wrong?
As for the racist text messages that have been linked to police in San Francisco, there was a similar scandal -- albeit on a smaller scale -- in Baton Rouge last year. Michael Elsbury, a Baton Rouge police officer who typically patrolled the area around Southern University, was allowed to resign after he was linked to the following messages: "I wish someone would pull a Ferguson on them and take them out," he reportedly wrote. "I hate looking at those African monkeys at work...I enjoy arresting those thugs with their saggy pants."
Then there was the message that seemed to be about Elsbury's black colleagues: ""They are nothing but a bunch of monkeys. The only reason they have this job is the n-----, n----- in them."
I don't know if Elsbury, who worked as a Baton Rouge police officer 15 years, has been linked to any white supremacist groups, but if we were playing "$10,000 Pyramid" and you quoted me Elsbury's text messages, I would respond, "Something a Klansman might say!"
The FBI report notes the use of the word "ghost skins" by white supremacist groups. The phrase, according to the report, describes "those who avoid overt displays of their beliefs to blend into society and covertly advance white supremacist causes...At least one white supremacist group has reportedly encouraged ghost skins to seek positions in law enforcement for the capability of alerting skinhead crews of pending investigative action against them."
Jones who, to repeat, is a former military police captain, points out that the FBI report says the infiltration of law enforcement agencies by white supremacy groups is a threat to the country. He wonders why that report hasn't led to more discussion.
I have the same response after reading Jones' column that I had after hearing of Elsbury's resignation: Would a police officer with such white supremacist views even stick out? Or are anti-black hatred and standard American policing so similar to one another that we wouldn't notice anything remarkable about a black-hating cop on patrol?