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Efforts to Weed Out Extremists Among Police Meet Resistance

In the fight to eradicate extremism from the rank of policeCongressmen from California to Minnesota have suggested solutions that they found easy.

Some laws empower police to conduct stronger background checks on recruits and allow new officers to scrutinize social media to ensure they are not members of a hatred group. Other laws will make it easier for the department to dismiss officers associated with extremists.

However, lawmakers working to pass these measures in recent months have seen many obstacles and somewhat unexpected, ranging from a straightforward Republican-Democratic clash to serious problems with the protection of constitutional rights. I realized that I was facing the opposite of.

Last month, a police officer in Fresno, California, was fired after a video showing that he was in favor of the Proud Boys in protest surfaced. “Such ideologies, actions and affiliations do not exist in law enforcement and will not be tolerated within the Fresno police station class,” said the police chief.

However, they faced resistance when state lawmakers recently proposed legislation to give police more power to eliminate police officers with radical relationships.

Brian Marvel, chairman of the California Police Department Research Association, said in a statement that the organization supported the idea, but not the drafted law. It “infringes on the rights of the individual,” he said, and said it could prevent someone from becoming an officer based on personal beliefs, religions, or other interests.

The challenge for lawmakers is that militants invade the class, as police officers, like everyone else, enjoy the First Amendment’s right to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. Is to find a way to maintain these rights while preventing them.

California, one of four states, including Oregon, Minnesota, Tennessee, and Washington, DC, is proposing a new law empowering law enforcement agencies to eliminate police officers associated with extremism. ..

Police officers are preparing to disband protesters in Portland, Oregon, on November 4, 2020. The state is considering legislation that will allow potential police officers to be screened more closely. (Mason Trinka / New York Times)

Such efforts have been nationwide for many years, inspired by the FBI’s report, which began more than 15 years ago, documenting coordinated efforts by white supremacists and other extremist groups to infiltrate police. It is boiled in.

The January 6 incident added momentum to these efforts and was monitored by more than 30 active or retired police officers participating in protests in Washington, with at least seven attacking the Capitol. I was charged with the crime.

“When January 6th happened, it gave us a more visceral sense of why this kind of legislation was needed,” said Ash Kara, a Democrat of the California State Legislature. “This is a long-term issue and has not been addressed directly by law enforcement agencies.”

Racist gangs among Los Angeles County Sheriffs’ agents have been a problem for decades. Law enforcement officers have recently been dismissed in relation to the Ku Klux Klan in Virginia, Texas, Florida, Michigan, Nebraska, and Louisiana. And, as various agencies are upset by the exposure of police officers exchanging derogatory remarks about minorities on social media, Philadelphia police took a vacation in 2019 for such a Facebook post. Thirteen of the 72 police officers were dismissed.

Although few solid data are available on the number of American police officers who have a clear relationship with extremism, senior officials have repeatedly characterized it as a threat to accelerate domestic extremism.

At a hearing at Capitol Hill last week, Attorney General Merrick Garland said, “There is growing fear of domestic violent extremism and domestic terrorism.”

Many lawmakers say that the spread of the country is reflected in the police station.

Police officers themselves, at least those who admit that there is a problem, tend to welcome the idea that additional scrutiny will drive away bad cop. Major California unions supported the general idea of ​​scrutinizing applicants more closely, but all candidates who were members of a hatred group, participated in activities, or publicly expressed sympathy. I opposed the first draft of the law that refused.

They feared that the legal basis for defining extremist groups was too broad, and that members of organizations opposed to abortion and same-sex marriage could be trapped by law.

The California legislature negotiated a compromise on the bill with major police unions in Los Angeles, San Jose, and San Francisco, and then approved the change. The settled words said, “Members of the hatred group should not be in law enforcement and do not apply if you are a member of any of these groups, you have no place in our profession.” I am. Still, some California police officers and unions reject amended legislation due to civil rights and free speech issues.

Some legal experts agree. Former police officer Philip M. Stinson, a criminal justice professor at Bowling Green State University, said all proposed measures would lead to a swift challenge for constitutional reasons. He said it would be better to ban certain types of behavior than to focus on organizational membership.

“I don’t think the idea that police can be systematically reformed in a short period of time through a series of legislative measures is possible,” he said.

In Oregon, Parliamentarian Janelle Bynum began drafting a new bill last summer to better screen potential officers.

Given Oregon’s history of opposition to changes in the law governing police, she and her allies consulted senior police officers throughout the state before writing the bill. They focused on screening police officers before joining the police, allowing law enforcement agencies to see applicants’ social media posts. While the law aims to unify the background checks of Oregon police officers, it is up to individual law enforcement agencies to set their own rules for issues such as hate speech. The bill states that “racism has no place in public security.”

“We’re trying to thread the needle to secure those rights, but we don’t tolerate any kind of hatred group,” said a former small town police chief who entered the Oregon House 28 years later. Ronald H. Noble, a member of Parliament, said. Law enforcement agency. As a Republican, he forged a rare bipartisan effort with Democrat Bynum to draft a bill.

Darryl Turner, head of the Portland Police Association, said he supported strengthening the review because it was up to individual departments to deal with radical candidates.

In a statement, Turner said executives must maintain high standards and “the degree to which the law will be achieved will depend primarily on careful and prudent implementation at the institutional level.”

In Washington, DC, new police chief Robert Contee III has expressed support for an independent screening mechanism for police officers who are expected to be legislated by the fall. The bill faced little criticism there, and city council member Johnny’s Lewis George, who proposed it, was attributed to a year of traumatic demonstrations on police and social justice issues and a raid on the Capitol. There is.

Many of the 18,000 law enforcement agencies across the United States have their own settings, so the standards for how to confront extremists vary widely from police station to police station. They also have their own contract language, and they also have different state labor laws.

In Minnesota and Tennessee, proposed legislation prohibits current officers from belonging to white supremacists and other hatred groups. The Minnesota bill is the subject of negotiations between a Republican-controlled Senate and a majority of Democrats in the House of Representatives, but in Tennessee, the Republican-controlled Senate has already stagnated the bill.

In Minnesota, George Floyd’s death by white police officer Derek Chauvin, who was convicted of murder last month, scrutinizes the relationship between Minneapolis Police Department and the city’s black and Latin communities. Brought.

Democratic Congressman Cedric Frazier believed that this situation would make it easier to pass new legislation banning police alliances with white supremacist organizations, even if Chauvin was not directly involved. .. He was wrong.

Frazier’s Republican colleagues did not disagree with the idea, but said they felt it was inadequate. State legislator Eric Lucero, along with members of the Anarchist, Environmental and Animal Rights Group, sought to add other organizations, including al-Qaeda, al-Shabaab, and Hezbollah, to the ban.

The proposed bill came from the House Criminal Justice Reform Commission in a party-line vote. In the proposed amendment, Frazier sought to maintain one clause that focused on white supremacy.

“It’s about building trust within the black community, most of which addresses the issue of white supremacy,” he said.

In Oregon, Bynum said the bill was triggered by both fierce protests and previous conflicts over the past year.

One of them was a long-running episode in which Portland policeman Mark Kruger stopped working around 2000 when he raised a shield in a city park in honor of five Nazi German soldiers. The board found that Kluger brought “distrust and disgrace” to the police.

When Kluger argued that he was just a history enthusiast exercising his First Amendment rights and threatened to sue, the city calmed down while erasing his suspension for 80 hours of vacation and $ 5,000. Withdrew criticism.

After 26 years in the military, he retired as captain in 2020, shortly before Bynum began enacting new legislation.

For Bynum, legislating a statement of principles against radicalism will be an important first step.

“In essence, you have to move the ball,” she said.

Katie Benner contributed to the report.

c.2021 The New York Times Company

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