An investigation found a number of police trainers who have expressed extremist views online, with some having ties to the Proud Boys.
White supremacists, conspiracy theorists, and far-right vigilantes have long entrenched themselves within the ranks of law enforcement. A new investigation from Reuters suggests that it’s not just that the position of authority appeals to these groups — it’s that police trainers with far-right ties may be teaching recruits to think this way.
Reuters looked into law enforcement consultancy groups that have been brought in to train hundreds of police officers and public safety workers across the country. It found that a handful of trainers involved in developing and teaching courses to law enforcement recruits have expressed extremist views, included prejudiced information within training material, and had connection to far-right groups including the Proud Boys.
The figure central to Reuters’s findings was Richard Whitehead, a prominent law enforcement consultant who has been involved in training more than 500 officers over the last four years. During that time, he’s used his online platform to call for public executions of government officials who were disloyal to former President Donald Trump, lent his support to extremist organizations, and called for police officers to disobey public health orders. He also claimed that “we are on the brink of civil war.” In his official training sessions, he showed a police officer in a turban and labeled him a “towel head.” He mocked trans people with material about a suspect who “identifies as a mountain panda.” He taught police not to trust sexual assault victims. He was previously banned from Washington police training groups for his approach, but continues to get work across the country.
While Whitehead might be the most prominent of the far-right cop consultants, he’s not alone. Reuters tracked down several other instructors who have claimed the 2020 presidential election was stolen and seem to believe the QAnon conspiracy theory. At least one participated in the insurrection attempt on Jan. 6, 2021. Others appeared in a database of people associated with the Oath Keepers, a far-right, violent, anti-government group.
Law enforcement on all levels continues to have an extremist problem. Meanwhile — despite the fact that few police forces actually lost any funding — Democrats are still calling for more spending on police. Several Democrats in the House of Representatives this week are backing legislation to boost police funding, in an effort to look tough on crime ahead of the midterms. President Biden, in his State of the Union, called emphatically to “fund the police.” But maybe they ought to take a closer look at where that money is going — and to whom.