As the nation comes to grips with the explosion of domestic terrorism initiated by white nationalists, many Americans are concerned about the political views of some of the very people who are tasked with protecting them — those law enforcement officers who not only hold white supremacist views but also belong to racist groups like the KKK and post about their bigotry openly on social media.
That concern was reinforced last week by a widely circulated viral video of a handcuffed black man being led on a leash by two horse-mounted policemen in Galveston, Texas.
This just happened in Texas. Anyone involved in this must be fired immediately. I am speechless. https://t.co/BNEeJCwKeY
— Fred Guttenberg (@fred_guttenberg) August 6, 2019
Now an African American police sergeant in St. Louis, Missouri with 19 years of experience is confirming the presence of white supremacists within her own department, according to CBS News.
“‘Do you think that there are white supremacists on the police force?’ asked CBS News correspondent Jeff Pegues.”
“‘Yes’ said Heather Taylor, an almost 19-year veteran on the St. Louis Metro police force.”
“”You didn’t even pause,’ Pegues said.”
‘”Have you seen some of the Facebook posts of some of our suspended officers right now?’ Taylor responded. ‘Yes.'”
The suspended officers that Taylor refers to are 22 St. Louis police officers whom the St. Louis Circuit Attorney has said are not allowed to bring cases for prosecution after an investigation by a national watchdog group, The Plain View Project, exposed their racist and anti-Muslim social media posts.
At least one of the posts by a St. Louis law enforcement officer compared Black Lives Matter to the KKK. This is despite the city’s police department mandating implicit bias training for its employees since the aftermath of the killing of Michael Brown in nearby Ferguson, Missouri in 2014.
While the St. Louis Police Department refused to speak to CBS News about the issue, St. Louis Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards, who hires the city’s police chief, told the network that he’s “not surprised” that white supremacists are still on the police force.
“My job is to root that person out,” Edwards said.
Edwards pointed to the fact that use of force incidents have been trending downward since the implicit bias training has begun but admitted that there is much work to be done before he can look one African American mother who spoke with him recently in the eye and reassure her.
“She asked me… ‘Can you change our police department? Because every time my little black boy encounters a police… I think one or two things is going to happen. That my child will lose his liberty and go to prison or that my child will die.’ We have challenges. But we’re overcoming those challenges a bit at a time,” he said.
As far as Sargeant Taylor is concerned the solution lies in the better vetting of job applicants and an end to the code of silence that police officers use to protect their racist colleagues. Despite that “blue wall” of coverups of internal malpractice, Taylor is unafraid of a backlash for her candid assessment of the department’s failings.
“When you know you’re doin’ right you can hold your head up…” she said. “I don’t think that all of our department is bad… But… instead of complaining about me, how about you do something to change the culture that you know exists?” she said.
Until police departments around the country rid their forces of the bad apples, Americans can’t be sure that the people who are tasked with protecting them from violent white nationalists intent on domestic terrorism are not part of the problem themselves.
It is a problem that needs to be investigated and addressed as soon as possible.
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Original reporting by Jeff Pegues and Elianna Mintz at CBS News.