In the aftermath of the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection, the D.C. Council has surfaced as a leading voice demanding an investigation into alleged connections between Metropolitan Police Department [MPD] officers and white supremacist groups.
As for those found guilty of the allegation, some city leaders have called for the officers to be dismissed from the force.
Acting Police Chief Robert J. Contee III addressed his concerns during an interview on Feb. 13 in The Washington Post in which he said he supports the hiring of an outside firm to check for such links and would endorse a policy that prohibits interactions between police and white supremacist groups.
“We have to do a top-to-bottom look for everything,” Contee said in the interview. “MPD is a microcosm of the society that we live in. We have to identify those things and root them out immediately.”
Contee’s remarks count among those increasingly shared by Blacks who suspect that police-involved violence often occurs because of racist motivation and that a culture exists within many law enforcement agencies that tolerates such attitudes and behavior. Video footage suggests that police officers may have either supported white power groups or allowed their members unfettered access to the Capitol during the insurrection.
Ronald Hampton, a retired MPD officer, told the Informer that while serving on the force, he encountered white officers who sympathized with groups such as the Ku Klux Klan.
“They were there and sometimes they would wear their paraphernalia coming to work,” he said. “The language they would use talking about D.C. residents made it clear where they stood when it came to race.”
“Sometimes relationships between Black and white officers really got bad – even nasty. I was of the view that we were here to serve and protect the public, regardless of whatever color someone was but some of the white officers didn’t think that way,” he said.
Charles P. Wilson, national chairman of the National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers, Inc. based in Newark, agrees with both Hampton and Contee.
“White supremacists or their sympathizers have been in this profession for a long time and they need to be removed,” Wilson said. “This problem really became clear after the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol when some of the rioters were treated well by some people in law enforcement. The fact that there are white supremacists in law enforcement is no surprise to any Black officer.”
Wilson said when police officer candidates apply for positions, they should be vetted and possibly have their social media accounts reviewed.
D.C. Council member Janeese Lewis George (D-Ward 4) represents the primary sponsor for recent legislation – the “White Supremacy in Policing Prevention Act of 2021” – which would require the District’s auditor to conduct a thorough scrutiny of possible ties between MPD officers and white supremacist or other hate groups.
George said D.C. police officers who sympathize with white power groups need to be confronted.
“We cannot confront the bias and discrimination in policing without rooting out explicit racism,” she said. “Investigating links to hate groups within MPD and identifying reforms to prevent and detect these ties is critical to protect our communities and move us closer to equal justice under the law.”
The legislation, presented Feb. 25 has co-sponsors on the Council who include: Council members Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1), Christina Henderson (I-At Large), Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5), Brooke Pinto (D-Ward 2), Trayon White (D-Ward 8) and Anita Bonds (D-At Large). The bill has been referred to the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety by D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) with no hearing date set.
McDuffie, a former chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said, “As we saw during the Jan. 6, Trump-supported Capitol insurrection, white supremacy within the ranks of law enforcement is a problem for police departments across the country.”
“This legislation would require an assessment of any potential connections between MPD officers and hate groups as well as identify reforms that improve public safety and increase public trust in the department,” he said.