Utah ended a surveillance contract after learning the firm's boss was in the KKK
On Tuesday, OneZero reported that Damien Patton, the founder of tech company called Banjo that’s raised hundreds of millions of dollars, was a white supremacist. Court records revealed that Patton was part of the Dixie Knights of the Ku Klux Klan when he was 17 years old, and even participated in the shooting of a synagogue with the group.
The shocking story is already having repercussions for Patton's venture capital-backed company. The Salt Lake City Tribune reported Tuesday that Utah has suspended a lucrative contract that Banjo had struck with police departments around the state. Last month, the Tribune reported that Banjo’s technology “listens to 911 calls throughout the state. It monitors traffic cameras. The location of police cars. Your social media. And more.” In 2018, Utah gave Banjo a $750,000 contract. More recently, per the Tribune, the parties agreed on one worth $20.7 million.
A massive surveillance program is something that anyone should have second thoughts about being under the control of someone like Patton, who, per OneZero, “admitted to participating in white supremacist talks and meetings, where, according to his own testimony, speakers advocated for the elimination of Blacks and Jews, among other beliefs built around racism and religious discrimination.”
Patton confirmed his participation in the Klan in a statement to OneZero. “Thirty-two years ago I was a lost, scared, and vulnerable child,” he wrote. “I won’t go into detail, but the reasons I left home at such a young age are unfortunately not unique; I suffered abuse in every form. I did terrible things and said despicable and hateful things, including to my own Jewish mother, that today I find indefensibly wrong, and feel extreme remorse for. I have spent most of my adult lifetime working to make amends for this shameful period in my life.”
Richard Piatt, a spokesman for Sean Reyes, Utah’s attorney general, gave a statement to the Tribune, saying that Reyes “is shocked and dismayed at reports that Banjo’s founder had any affiliation with any hate group or groups in his youth.”
“Neither the attorney general nor anyone in the attorney general’s office were aware of these affiliations or actions,” Piatt continued. “They are indefensible. He has said so himself.”
Piatt said that the AG’s office will “absolutely condemn the hate and violence promoted by supremacist groups and will continue to aggressively fight crimes and decry domestic terror perpetrated by them.” He went on to announce the suspension of Patton’s contract.
“While we believe Mr. Patton’s remorse is sincere and believe people can change, we feel it’s best to suspend use of Banjo technology by the Utah attorney general’s office while we implement a third-party audit and advisory committee to address issues like data privacy and possible bias,” he said. “We recommend other state agencies do the same.”