House Subcommittee Holds Fourth Hearing on White Supremacy in America

“When I got out of the Neo-Nazi’s, I had the great job of being a hockey coach,” Frank Meeink explained to members of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties on Tuesday. “Every hockey team has an agitator— he’s the guy that goes out and starters trouble with the other team during the game. No matter what that man does, every person on the team has to stand up for them,” Meeink said. 

“So when you have one racist, nazi cop in a presinct, the other cops might not even know his full beliefs but have to back him up at all times. No matter what,” Meeink said. 

Meeink, a former white supremacist turned anti-racism activist, was one of five witnesses called to testify at a remote public hearing titled “Confronting Violent White Supremacy (Part IV):  White Supremacy in Blue—The Infiltration of Local Police Departments” just days before Congress is set to go on recess. 

Meeink, who had a cable-access show called The Reich in the early 1990s in Springfield, MO, said that high ranking individuals in white supremacy groups encouraged members to “cover up their tattoos, grow out their hair, put on a suit, and join law enforcement.”

Because of this, many committee members agreed that the problem of white supremacy in law enforcement reaches far beyond a few corrupt officers and that the current system actively prevents their colleagues from standing up to racism perpetrated by fellow officers. 

Democrats and Republicans clashed at the hearing, namely over whether or not white supremacy is a systemic problem in law enforcement or just the result of a “few bad apples” that have infiltrated the police. 

On the morning of the committee meeting, subcommittee Chairman Jamie Raskin, D-M.D., released to the public a long-awaited unredacted report published by the FBI in 2006 warning that self-identified overt racists were intentionally attempting to infiltrate the ranks of law enforcement. 

According to Raskin, the FBI declined to attend the hearing because they said there was “nothing to say because there is no evidence that white supremacy is a widespread problem in law enforcement.” This is a direct counter to their report published nearly 15 years ago. 

In his opening remarks, Raskin, said that white supremacy has infiltrated police departments across the country through systemic racism. Raskin drew comparisons between white supremacy and terrorist ideology. 

“If local or state law enforcement were infiltrated by ISIS or Al Qaeda,” Raskin said, “we would consider it an immediate public safety emergency and the infiltration of white supremacy is no less urgent or important.” 

Ranking Republican Congressman Chip Roy refuted Raskin’s comparison. “I categorically reject that statement that the 800,000 law enforcement agents that stand on the thin blue line every day are systemically racist.” 

Roy, R-T.X, has been a vocal supporter of law enforcement since demonstrations sparked across the country over police brutality and the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. He has criticized the subcommittee for providing a platform, the fourth of its kind, that further broadens the divide between law enforcement and the communities they serve. 

Representative Lacy Clay, D-M.O., countered this argument, saying that data from the Plain View Project proves that the racism in U.S. law enforcement is, in fact, systemic. 

The Plain View Project, the brainchild of Harvard Law alumni Emily Baker-White, is an independent database of public Facebook comments made by more than 3,500 current and former law enforcement officers that appear to endorse violence, racism, or bigotry. Data from the project has shown that 1 in 5 current officers, or 2 in 5 retired officers, have posted content that met the threshold

The most common forms of content include displaying bias, applauding violence, scoffing at due process, or using dehumanizing language on the platform. 

Sgt. Heather Taylor, a Black, female former police officer with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department and current president of the Ethical Society of Police, was invited to the hearing as a witness, and told committee members that during her tenure as an officer, it was nearly impossible to “break the blue code of silence.” 

“A good majority of us come to work to do our jobs fairly, as black and white officers, when we see racist or hateful posts we have to stand up,” Taylor said. She explained that without whistleblower protections, many officers would not come forward with allegations against other officers of white supremacist ideology out of fear of losing their jobs or being stigmatized by their colleagues. 

“Anyone saying you can train away racism is wrong… you need to weed it out and you need to fire and terminate them if they’re officers,” said Taylor.

Meeink agreed. “People with the blue line will protect one another and not want to cause division between themselves even if it’s to call out someone that is wrong,” said Meeink. “I worry that they will protect each other because of the blue line, just like a hockey team.” 

Congressman Roy shot back against Democrats, saying that racism in law enforcement is more than what he called a “few bad apples,” and told committee members that by calling white supremacy a systemic issue people are less likely to join the force. 

“I’m always entertained by those who are on the streets and then something happens and there’s violence because they’re at a protest and the next thing you know they go ‘Where are the police?’ and that’s happened to members of this body,” Roy said. “Well I guaren-damn-tee you that the thing that we’re going to be asking is ‘Where are the police?’ if we continue to go out and assault them and blankly condemn them as racist.”

Subcommittee members include the group of liberal, freshman congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley, all of whom support the defunding of the police in the United States. 

“Too much of this conversation focuses on whether or not this problem of white supremacy exists at all,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “ When we talk about systemic we aren’t litigating the individual attitudes of any one officer. We can all exist in racist systems and do not have to be racist or consciously racist in order to participate in these systems.” 

In the hearing, which lasted over two hours, Ocasio-Cortez called on Georgetown University Law Professor Vida B. Johnson to explain the repercussions of qualified immunity and holding law enforcement officers accountable for racist actions. 

“Qualified immunity acts as a barrier of holding officers accountable because it aligns interests between the police and prosecutors,” Johnson said. “Because of this you’ll see officers not being held responsible by their ranks, prosecutors, or our civil courts.”

The hearing had an audience of approximately 220, many of whom were actively engaging with other speculators in the comment section of the livestream. After roughly an hour, comments were disabled on the video over rampant hate speech and partisan fighting amongst participants. 

By McKenzie Beard

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