As details continue to pour in about the people who participated in the attack on the Capitol, the presence of off-duty police within the mob, as well as sympathizers among the ranks of those officers assigned to protect the property itself, have raised concerns about racism hidden behind the thin blue line, according to media reports and commentators.
An Associated Press review of public records, social media posts and videos shows at least 21 current or former members of the U.S. military or law enforcement have been identified as being at or near the Capitol riot, with more than a dozen others under investigation but not yet named.
Two police officers from a small Virginia town were arrested by the FBI after posting a selfie of themselves inside the Capitol and several officers have been suspended pending the outcome of investigations into their conduct, including one who posed for a selfie with a rioter and another who was seen wearing one of the Trump’s red “Make America Great Again” caps.
With their enormous power, department-issued weapons and access to sensitive information, police departments have become attractive recruiting grounds for white supremacist groups.
Experts in homegrown extremism say the Jan. 6 insurrection that left five people dead saw their worst fears realized. Those who stormed the Capitol appeared to employ tactics, body armor and technology like two-way radio headsets similar to those of the police they confronted, and some used tactics that suggested military training as well.
“ISIS and al-Qaida would drool over having someone with the training and experience of a U.S. military officer,” said former FBI agent Michael German, now at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University.
“These people have training and capabilities that far exceed what any foreign terrorist group can do. Foreign terrorist groups don’t have any members who have badges.”
A review of videos and photos from the riot shows scores of people wearing military-style gear, including helmets, body armor, rucksacks and two-way radios. Dozens carried canisters of bear spray, baseball bats, hockey sticks and pro-Trump flags attached to stout poles later used to bash police officers.
As protesters massed outside the Capitol, a line of men wearing helmets and body armor trudged up the marble stairs in a single-file line, each holding the jacket collar of the one ahead.
The “Ranger File” formation is standard for a combat team “stacking up” to breach a building, instantly recognizable to any soldier or Marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was a chilling sign that many at the vanguard of the mob either had military training or were trained by those who did.
Since 2009, according to The Conversation, police officers in Florida, Alabama and Louisiana have been identified as members of white supremacist groups, more than 100 police departments in 49 different states have had to deal with scandals involving racist emails, texts or online comments sent or made by department staff, and just this week, a high-ranking officer in the New York Police Department was found to be behind a string of racist posts online.
And as it turns out, Black officers in the Capitol Police have been pointing out this problem for years.
Since 2001, ProPublica reports that hundreds of Black Capitol Police officers have sued the department for racial discrimination. They alleged that white officers called Black colleagues slurs like the N-word and that one officer found a hangman’s noose on his locker. White officers were called “huk lovers” or “FOGs” — short for “friends of gangsters” — if they were friendly with their Black colleagues.
Black officers faced “unprovoked traffic stops” from fellow Capitol Police officers. One Black officer claimed he heard a colleague say, “Obama monkey, go back to Africa.”
To make matters worse, Marketplace.org reports that law enforcement agencies are demanding more funding to increase personnel to extend security perimeters around public buildings, increase surveillance, and protect public officials and their families in the face of continued threats of violence in the future.
“State governments are going to bring in not just their capitol police, but state troopers, police from the city, many of them compensated with overtime that has to be paid,” said Prof. Robert McCrie of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
This summary was prepared by TCR contributor Isidoro Rodriguez.