WASHINGTON — A House panel released a 2006 FBI intelligence memo that highlights concerns by the agency about the threat of white supremacists trying to infiltrate law enforcement.
“White supremacist presence among law enforcement personnel is a concern due to the access they may possess to restricted areas vulnerable to sabotage and to elected officials or protected persons, whom they could see as potential targets for violence,” the memo said. “In addition, white supremacist infiltration of law enforcement can result in other abuses of authority and passive tolerance of racism within communities served.”
It was at the center of discussion during a hearing Tuesday.
“The bloody trail of violent white supremacists is now splattered across America,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Maryland).
A retired St. Louis police detective testified about her experience reporting a fellow officer for racist behavior while on the force.
“I risked my life for reporting officers,” said Heather Taylor, President of the Ethical Society of Police and retired police officer. “He cheered at Black people being shot in the head, posting you could take him out of the ghetto but you can’t take the ghetto out of him.”
Witnesses who testified called for stricter background checks and federal oversight of officers.
“We must weed out officers who hold racist beliefs rather than sweep them under the rug,” said Vida Johnson, Associate Professor of Law at Georgetown University.
A former Neo-Nazi told lawmakers about his former allegiance to white supremacy.
“I got a swastika tattooed on my neck to prove my undying loyalty,” said Frank Meeink, a former white supremacist.
Meeink, now a Black Lives Matter activist, described learning about efforts by white supremacists to land positions of power.
“White supremacist leaders encourage their followers to join the police force as a means to cause harm to people of color,” Meeink said.
The FBI memo pointed out that there wasn’t much evidence showing organized efforts by hate groups to join law enforcement but cautioned there could be cases that have gone undetected.
“There is little corroborated reporting on current strategic attempts by white supremacist groups to infiltrate law enforcement communities,” the memo said. “Cases that have been reported tend to reflect self-initiated efforts by white supremacist sympathizers, particularly among those already within law enforcement, to use their professional skills for the benefit of white supremacist causes.”
Law enforcement representatives defended the vast majority of sworn officers during the hearing.
“The law enforcement profession shares the concern that any bad actors may infiltrate its ranks,” said Pima County, Arizona Sheriff Mark Napier. “These isolated occurrences for any profession should not be used as an indictment of its entire membership.”
Republicans also pointed to the dangers facing officers in recent months.
“In the two weeks following the death of Mr. George Floyd, more than 700 police officers were injured,” said Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas).