Cops Are Being Trained By Consultants Who Have Publicly Outed Themselves As Bigots And Far Right Extremists
from the sort-of-C.V.-cops-tend-to-respect dept
In news that is altogether so unsurprising it needs a “resigned sob” emoji attached, a Reuters investigation has found that far-right extremists are training cops because of course they are.
Given law enforcement’s beginnings as an entity tasked with ensuring plantation owners maintained their access to free labor, it’s little wonder that cop shops have welcomed racists and fans of authoritarianism into their ranks. This continues even as times (and laws) have changed. America has made halting, often unconvincing moves towards equality. Meanwhile, law enforcement has continued to court people who believe might — and far more often, white — makes right. A majority of law enforcement officers are white males. And that’s why they welcome training from white males who believe white males are still the best people this country has to offer.
On social media, Richard Whitehead is a warrior for the American right. He has praised extremist groups. He has called for public executions of government officials he sees as disloyal to former President Donald Trump. In a post in 2020, he urged law enforcement officers to disobey COVID-19 public-health orders from “tyrannical governors,” adding: “We are on the brink of civil war.”
Rather than regarded warily as some sort of unpredictable animal, Whitehead has been not only welcomed, but also paid handsomely to deliver extremist-soaked “training” to a nation of government employees.
The Idaho-based law enforcement consultant has taught at least 560 police officers and other public safety workers in 85 sessions in 12 states over the past four years, according to a Reuters analysis of public records from the departments that hired him.
Whitehead’s willingness to swim in the mud with fellow bigots has occasionally hurt him. But it hasn’t hurt him often enough or deeply enough. As the Reuters investigation notes, Whitehead was temporarily banned from advertising his training wares by the Washington state training commission, which expressed concerns with training materials Whitehead offered that referred to a turban-wearing officer as a “towel head” and (for who knows what fucking reason) “contained cartoons of women in bikinis.”
Whitehead — being white, ignorant, and an asshole — learned nothing from this experience.
Since then, he said, he has expanded the section of his course that caused that controversy, adding more “pot-stirring” material, including a slide that ridicules transgender people: “Suspect is a gender-fluid assigned-male-at-birth wearing non-gender-specific clothing born Caucasian but identifies as a mountain panda.” Whitehead said such barbs are intended to push back against pressures on law enforcement to espouse left-wing views on gender or race.
That’s a shitty thing to do to people. These are not “left-wing views.” This is simply treating other human beings as human beings. This is nothing more than asking officers to attempt to understand cultures unfamiliar to them or gender identities that may not seem apparent. Respecting these does not reflect poorly on an officer. But they’re trained by asshats like Whitehead to believe it does: that treating anyone who isn’t a cop like a human being is a form of weakness. The “warrior mentality” is a way of life for cops, something drilled into their skulls by those training them and amplified by the federal government’s willingness to give them free access to military surplus gear. Us vs. them, with “us” being cops and everyone else, no matter their race, color, or sexual identity, being the enemy.
Also unsurprising: Whitehead isn’t alone in his far right views and his willingness to let his bigotry color (sorry) his training.
He’s one of five police trainers identified by Reuters whose political commentary on social media has echoed extremist opinions or who have public ties to far-right figures.
One trainer attended Trump’s January 6, 2021, rally at the U.S. Capitol that devolved into a riot, injuring more than 100 police officers. Two of the trainers have falsely asserted that prominent Democrats including President Joe Biden are pedophiles, a core tenet of the QAnon conspiracy theory. Four have endorsed or posted records of their past interactions with far-right extremist figures, including prominent “constitutional sheriff” leader David Clarke Jr. and Proud Boys leader Joe Biggs, who is being prosecuted for his involvement in the Capitol riots.
Cops who claim to respect the rule of law should be steering far clear of extremists like these. Instead, they and their views are embraced. This is evidenced by the astounding number of cops (current and former) and law enforcement officials who participated in the raid of the Capitol on January 6, 2020 in an attempt to overturn a lawful election.
These are fringe figures. There is no debate. Whitehead and the others singled out by this investigation hold views that are not all that far removed from fringe-fondling sovereign citizens. As Whitehead has clearly (but moronically) stated, he believes elected sheriffs should be free to ignore any law they personally feel is unconstitutional. This obviously includes things like vaccine mandates and “sanctuary city” laws. But Whitehead’s belief in the “constitutional sheriff” goes beyond these confines. In his belief, not even the US president can order elected local sheriffs to do anything.
Whitehead is not alone in his extremism or his ability to bend the ears of cops who are likely receptive to his hot takes on race, and also to his belief that police officers should have to answer to no one.
Kansas-based trainer Darrel Schenck teaches firearms classes through his own company as well as through the law enforcement division of the National Rifle Association (NRA), the leading U.S. gun-rights lobby. Schenck has voiced the belief that Democrats are pedophiles, called reports of violence during the U.S. Capitol riots “fake news,” and declared the 2020 election illegitimate, commenting: “election fraud is the real pandemic.”
Police instructor Adam Davis characterized Biden as a “puppet and a pedophile” on Facebook. In other posts, he slammed people who protest racial bias in policing as “pawns” in the “scheme to destroy this nation.”
Davis has worked as a contractor for Street Cop Training, one of the biggest private providers of law enforcement instruction. He spoke at an industry trade conference hosted by the company in October, and he gives lectures to police agencies nationwide. Street Cop Training did not respond to requests for comment.
A lot of entities refused to comment. But these trainers did. And they universally claimed their extremist-aligned social media posts were nothing more than raising innocent questions about government narratives or just poor attempts at humor. They also claimed they were able to separate their personal beliefs and politics from the training they provide to officers.
But law enforcement loves these views. And most officers have no problem with people who associate with Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, bigots, and conspiracy theorists. Those paying for their training overlook concerning background info, like trainers espousing batshit election conspiracy theories or suggesting a lawful election is the government being overthrown.
If this is what cops want, let them shout it from the rooftops. Don’t let them hide behind noncommittal statements about “concerns” or “investigations” that never seem to conclude. Let the would-be authoritarians embrace their worst aspects. But make it public. Don’t let them pretend this isn’t what they want.
If cops want to be coddled by white extremists and bigots who encourage their “us vs. them” beliefs, they can own it. And, in doing so, they will make it clear to the general public who they serve: themselves. Those who haven’t been paying attention can decide whether their Gadsden flag encompasses the jackboots they otherwise worship. And those who have been paying attention can stop trying to meet cops halfway and let them know they’re not deserving of our respect or our tax dollars.