On Saturday, The Washington Post reported that police departments around the country are opening probes into officers accused of attending the pro-Trump "Save America" rally that devolved into a violent assault on the U.S. Capitol — a remarkable crack in the infamous "blue wall of silence" in police culture where brother officers act to defend their own.
"At least 13 off-duty law enforcement officials are suspected of taking part in the riot, a tally that could grow as investigators continue to pore over footage and records to identify participants. Police leaders are turning in their own to the FBI and taking the striking step of reminding officers in their departments that criminal misconduct could push them off the force and behind bars," reported Kimberly Kindy, Kim Bellware, and Mark Berman. "The reckoning within police departments comes as plans for new demonstrations this weekend and on Inauguration Day are solidifying, with authorities warning of the potential for violence in state capitals. Participants are expected to protest election results that made Joe Biden president-elect."
The officers, according to the report, are "under investigation for possible participation in the rioting, as well more than a dozen Capitol Police officers who may have assisted the mob that seized the Capitol. The officers — and at least one police chief — came from tiny departments with less than a handful of officers to large agencies with thousands on their force."
The reason why police are turning on their own, according to the University of Chicago's Craig Futterman, is that "The 'Code of Silence' is fundamentally about loyalty to your fellow officer and that 'no one understands what we're going through but us,' " whereas the Capitol riot — that left one officer dead and another bludgeoned with an American flag pole — was "fundamentally anti-police."
"It creates an issue where the public has a hard time believing that the ... decisions they make off duty do not impact their choices and decisions they make while on duty," said Las Vegas PD deputy chief Andrew Walsh, whose department has opened an investigation into "employees" who may have been at the Capitol. "We are making clear that they have First Amendment rights like all Americans," agreed Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, who recently accepted the resignation of an officer at the riot. "However, engaging in activity that crosses the line into criminal conduct will not be tolerated."
Trump has belatedly issued a statement condemning the violence, amid reports that additional rioting may occur ahead of the inauguration.