A former FBI special agent detailed in an Aug. 2020 report that white supremacists and militia members have infiltrated law enforcement ranks across the country. The abstract information didn't lead to a call from law enforcement leadership to look through their teams to purge possible problems. Now that off-duty law enforcement members were part of the Capitol insurrection, the Washington Post reported police chiefs are finally starting to act.
"National Sheriffs' Association President David Mahoney said many police leaders have treated officers with extremist beliefs as outliers and have underestimated the damage they can inflict on the profession and the nation," the Post reported.
"We saw the anti-government, anti-equality and racist comments coming out during the Obama administration. Shame on us for representing it as freedom of speech and for not recognizing it was chiseling away at our democracy," Mahoney said in an interview. "As we move forward, we need to make sure we are teaching our current staff members that they must have the courage to speak out when they know about another deputy's or officer's involvement. There should be no reference to the thin blue line."
At least 12 Capitol Police are under investigation for their behavior during the attack on the building, including one officer seen taking selfies with insurrectionists. At least 14 off-duty officers didn't go inside the building, but they were there on Jan. 6.
"They know who these bad apples are,'' said former FBI agent Michael German. "They learn about them when they are investigating white supremacists and militia groups."
But legal experts and police watchdog groups have little hope of change. They've heard law enforcement commitments after police killed unarmed Black Americans like Michael Brown and Tamir Rice, young boys shot and killed by police in 2014.
Georgetown Law professor Vida Johnson explained that "these officers are hiding in plain sight." Still, nothing has changed.
"Until they're willing to . . . discipline officers, this is going to continue to be a problem, and it's one that's completely destabilizing the country and putting us at risk," she said.