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Monday, December 09, 2019

Law Enforcement
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We’ve known for some time now that the presence of far-right extremists within the ranks of our police forces is a serious problem, one that was amplified by the January 6 insurrection, where a number of officers were participants. Despite that, there’s been little effort among either police authorities themselves or their civic and federal overseers to confront the issue and begin rooting white supremacists out of our policing system.

Of course, when these bigots and their activities are publicly exposed, as with the neo-Nazi Massachusetts officer exposed by HuffPost’s Christopher Mathias last month, there’s an immediate uproar and the affected local authorities scramble to repair the damage. The same dynamic is occurring now in Idaho, where a now-retired Boise police captain was recently exposed as a contributor and speaker for this year’s white nationalist American Renaissance (AR) conference. And it’s going to keep happening.

The Boise cop, Matthew Bryngleson, was exposed by researcher Molly Conger this weekend in a thread that detailed the officer’s real identity leading up to the annual AR gathering in Burns, Tennessee. Using the pseudonym Daniel Vinyard (taken from a racist skinhead character in the film American History X), Bryngelson was a scheduled speaker described as “a retired, race-realist police officer.” The title of his speech: “The Vilification of the Police and What It Means for America.”

AR is one of the longest-running white nationalist operations, founded in the 1990s by Jared Taylor, who specializes in giving an academic veneer to old-fashioned racial bigotry, particularly of the eugenicist variety. One of Taylor’s most durable propaganda campaigns involves blaming Black people for crime in America; among the people influenced by his spurious smears was mass killer Dylann Roof.

That was the topic when Bryngelson and Taylor engaged in an interview that was posted to the AR website in September. Bryngelson told Taylor stories from his career and his interactions with Black people, whom he described as criminals whose crimes “the sound human mind can’t even comprehend … let alone carry them out.” At one point, Bryngelson used a transphobic slur to describe someone.

Taylor asked Bryngelson to describe his experience as a police officer in dealing with nonwhites, and he replied:

Whatever the worst crime of the day is, it’s usually a Black person or a nonwhite. Of course white people do DUIs, they do domestic violence, they steal, but when it’s something where you pause and go, “Holy cow, I can’t believe that happened in this town,” almost always it’s someone who is not from there, and it’s a Black person, almost always without fail.

It’s a script. It’s what happens every single time no matter what the case is. You can catch them just finishing beating someone and during the subsequent resisting of arrest, the fight, we’re called racists. We can catch them in the act and the mere fact that we are catching them is racist. It’s 100% of the time we’re accused of being racist. Especially in this town, obviously, there are so few Black people there, but when we do encounter them, of course it’s going to be white officers because that’s mostly what we have, and when they get arrested they’re going to scream racism every single time.

Under his pseudonym, Bryngelson also authored a couple of pieces for the American Renaissance website. One of them described how he reached a point in his police career when he “became aware of the violent tendencies of Blacks.” Another recounted “microaggressions” from nonwhite and liberal members of the Boise City Council.

He described growing up in southern California before moving to a predominantly white northwest city 22 years before—in fact, following the blueprint of multiple other right-wing officers who have moved to Idaho in the same time period, and becoming a leading component in the state’s far-right radicalization.

“I picked the location because it was mostly white,” he wrote, adding that “the overwhelming majority” of officers who relocated “came to escape Black violence and rear their children in an area where they won’t be subjected to ‘diversity’ in the schools and violence in their neighborhoods.”

Bryngelson had been sworn in as a captain in April 2021 and has been an officer on the force for nearly 24 years. He was one of several officers who filed allegations against former Boise Police Chief Ryan Lee, an Asian American who was recently forced to resign amid allegations of abusive behavior.

Bryngelson also hosted a heavy-metal program weekly on the community FM station, Radio Boise 89.9, early Sunday mornings from 1 AM to 3 AM from 2013 to 2018. He frankly discussed working as a cop during banter on the show.

Mayor Lauren McLean immediately launched an investigation into Bryngelson’s history with the department and whether his views affected the cases he handled, and particularly any convictions he may have been responsible for, as well as how widespread his malign influence was within the department and whether its culture tolerated him knowingly.

“This is no time to consider circling the wagons and I will not tolerate anyone who tries to impede this investigation in any way,” McLean’s statement read, and added a warning to serving officers:

And for those in BPD: if you cannot or will not cooperate fully and honestly, I suggest that now is the time to leave this department. And honestly, the profession. The people of Boise rely on you to protect and serve them. The people of Boise deserve better. Everyone should trust that they will be treated fairly. We can’t expect that one would be able to trust that someone who perpetuates such blatant racism, while serving as an officer, would be able to treat those he reviles so deeply in a fair way. In the way that members of our community—any community—deserve and expect.

Other law enforcement officials also condemned Bryngelson, including former Ada County Sheriff Gary Raney, the Treasure Valley Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), and Boise’s Police Union.

“Bryngelson’s thoughts, beliefs, and actions are unbecoming of a law enforcement officer of any rank and they are devastating to our membership and our community relationships,” the FOP’s statement said.

In addition to reviewing Bryngelson’s cases, Ada County officials will also need to take a harder look at the circumstances of Lee’s ouster. As the Idaho Statesman editorial board says: “[N]ow because of what we know about Bryngelson’s deplorable views on people who are not white, we can’t help but wonder if the complaints against Lee were tinged by racial bias.”

The deeper problem, however, is that these revelations keep happening, and they will keep happening. That’s because this is a systemic problem related to police culture and training, and it’s a problem within every law enforcement body in the country. Responding to a scandal here and another one there won’t address how deeply this is embedded in law enforcement nationally, and how profound its ramifications are both for how policing is conducted in America and how it affects its relations with an increasingly angry public.

A powerful indicator of how deeply the infection runs within law enforcement culture is how police officials have responded to efforts in Minnesota—where a cop’s murder of a Black Minneapolis man in 2020 set off months of protests nationwide—to ban police officers from being involved in hate, extremist, or white supremacist groups. Police groups have come out in opposition to such bans, they say, because the wording is too vague and they might infringe on people’s First Amendment rights.

Fridley Police Chief Brian Weierke, president of the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, said the rule banning applicants or officers from participating in or supporting white supremacist, hate or extremist groups needs to be more clearly defined so the rule isn’t “weaponized.”

Carver County Sheriff Jason Kamerud said the new rules would hurt recruitment efforts, even as law enforcement nationwide has struggled to recruit and retain officers the past couple of years due to “protests,” the pandemic, and “political rhetoric calling for defunding police.”

Until the nation’s civil authorities—from mayors to governors to senators and presidents—make it a top priority to weed out bigoted extremists from the ranks of our law enforcement bodies, Police Captain Matt Bryngelsons will keep happening. And so will George Floyds.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

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Attorney General Merrick Garland

It has become something of a sport in certain media circles and elsewhere to complain, sometimes vociferously and repeatedly, that the Attorney General of the United States has been too plodding and reticent in the way he and his department have gone about the business of investigating Donald Trump for crimes committed while in office and afterwards, specifically, his attempts to overturn the results of the election he lost in 2020, and his removal from the White House and subsequent mishandling of thousands of government documents, hundreds of them classified, when he stored them in insecure facilities at his home and office at Mar a Lago in Palm Beach, Florida.

Critics of Garland are fond of pointing out that two years have passed since Trump’s meetings and phone calls with lawyers and other aides making plans to appoint fake slates of electors from battleground states he lost, and use the fake electors to stall or even stop the counting and certification of electoral ballots on January 6, 2021. More than a few articles I have read complain that Garland did not pick up the torch passed by Robert Mueller in his report, which detailed numerous instances of Trump apparently obstructing justice and/or congressional investigations of the attempt by Russia to influence the 2020 election and/or aid Trump’s campaign. In Mueller’s report, he held that Department of Justice rules prevented him from bringing charges against a sitting president. Well, these writers want to know, what about now? Trump is no longer president. Why couldn’t the DOJ charge him with obstructing justice in the ways that Mueller found he did back in 2019?

Merrick Garland has empaneled two grand juries in Washington, D.C., to investigate Trump’s possible criminal behavior in trying to overturn the presidential election, his incitement of the crowd that assaulted the Capitol on January 6, and his apparent theft of government documents when he left office, as well as his 18-month-long obstruction of attempts by the National Archives and the DOJ to get him to return the documents to the government, where they belonged. Reports in the press say that the DOJ – that would be Merrick Garland’s DOJ – has put hundreds of witnesses before both grand juries and questioned them about Trump’s alleged crimes. An entire team of DOJ attorneys, operating under the supervision of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, has been working non-stop to assemble documentary evidence, video evidence, audio recordings, and testimony of witnesses about Trump’s various alleged crimes.

During this time, Trump has done everything in his power to stop or delay the DOJ investigation. He had one of his lawyers lie on an affidavit certifying that he had turned over all the classified documents sought by a DOJ subpoena. The DOJ was forced to go into federal court and get a search warrant, which they used to search Mar-a-Lago, where they turned up 103 folders of classified documents Trump had failed to turn over pursuant to the subpoena. Getting the search warrant, carrying out the search, and going through all 22,000 pages of government documents that Trump held at Mar-a-Lago has taken time.

Trump then sued in federal court in Florida and got a judge, conveniently one he had appointed to the federal bench, to order a special master to review all 22,000 of the documents Trump took from the White House for possible protection under either attorney-client or executive privilege. That process, begun in September, is still ongoing and has caused the Department of Justice to file two appeals with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals seeking access to the documents the FBI seized from Mar a Lago so they can be used as evidence in their criminal investigation of Donald Trump.

The DOJ won its first appeal and was granted the right to use the 103 folders of classified documents in its investigation. Oral arguments will be held next Tuesday in Atlanta on the DOJ’s second appeal, which seeks access to the unclassified documents for use in its criminal investigation of Trump. All of this has taken several months, and the special master process is still not finished.

The DOJ has faced repeated attempts by witnesses it has subpoenaed to avoid testifying before its grand juries. Trump has had his SuperPAC fund lawsuits by witnesses seeking to avoid testifying. The DOJ has had to grant immunity to at least one witness to force him to testify truthfully about several matters under investigation, including the documents investigation and the January 6 investigation.

Now Trump has filed the necessary paperwork to become a candidate for the presidency in 2024, in an obvious attempt to make it more difficult for the Department of Justice to carry out its investigations of him. He has already started yapping about a “witch hunt” and comparing it to the Mueller investigation. He has his minions out in droves echoing his complaints. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene has called for defunding the DOJ investigation of Trump and the special counsel Garland appointed yesterday to lead the investigation. Recently she even went so far as to call for the impeachment of Merrick Garland.

Which brings up the most recent thing Garland has done in his investigation of Trump: On Friday he appointed former U.S. attorney and war crimes investigator Jack Smith as special counsel and put him in charge of both branches of the criminal investigation of Trump. The Republican right has raised a deafening scream in unison, of course, which should give you some idea of how frightened they, and Trump, are of this appointment. They should be. Special Counsel Smith will bring a fresh set of eyes to an investigation that has accumulated thousands of pages of evidence and thousands of pages of witness testimony.

Investigations like the one being carried out by the DOJ against Trump are enormously complicated and taxing. There is a tendency for prosecutors to get bogged down in the details of what they are investigating. If Special Counsel Smith is anything like he is being described by legal experts over the last 24 hours, he will get rapidly up to speed with the ongoing investigation and will have the opportunity to cut through some of the fog that has accumulated over the months, making decisions that might narrow its focus, enable prosecutors to reach conclusions, and begin to bring indictments.

Prosecuting a former president of the United States has never been done before. The new special counsel cannot just look at evidence and bring charges. He must bring charges that can be proved in a court of law and will convince a jury, some of whom may have voted for Trump, to convict him on charges that carry a decade or more of jail time if he is convicted. That is not an easy task.

Plodding and painstaking and reticent are good things for a prosecutor to be. Merrick Garland has said repeatedly over the last two years that no one in this country is above the law. I don’t think he has qualm one about charging Donald Trump for his crimes, but it’s not up to him whether Trump goes to jail. That will be up to a jury of Trump’s peers, an unknown if there ever was one.

Stay tuned. Merrick Garland is on the case, and so am I.

Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter. He has covered Watergate, the Stonewall riots, and wars in Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels. You can subscribe to his daily columns at luciantruscott.substack.com and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.

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