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Monday, December 09, 2019

Tag: police

Boise Officials Scramble After White Nationalist Police Captain Exposed

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.

US Capitol Evacuation Over False Alarm Provokes Fear And Fury

Washington (AFP) - The US Capitol was briefly evacuated Wednesday after authorities sounded a threat alarm over a harmless parachute stunt, prompting top lawmaker Nancy Pelosi to blast aviation officials for an "inexcusable" failure.

Police tasked with protecting the complex at the heart of US government in Washington issued an initial statement shortly after 6:30 PM ET saying they had ordered an evacuation as they were "tracking an aircraft that poses a probable threat."

They did not give further details. But it turned out the mini-crisis was triggered by a pre-planned flyover at nearby Nationals Stadium.

The news became a top headline within minutes in the United States, where the memories of September 11, 2001 attacks -- which saw Al-Qaeda fly passenger jets into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington -- and the January 6, 2021 storming of the Capitol by protesters are still powerful.

US Capitol Police swiftly issued a second statement to say the order had been given "out of an abundance of caution," that there was now "no threat" to the complex and that buildings had reopened for use.

Neither the House of Representatives nor the Senate, the chambers of Congress that are located in the Capitol, were in session at the time of the scare.

But the incident enranged Speaker of the House Pelosi, who fired off a withering statement soon after the evacuation order was lifted blasting the Federal Aviation Administration over the apparent misunderstanding.

The FAA's "apparent failure" to notify Capitol police of the planned flyover was "outrageous and inexcusable," Pelosi said.

"The unnecessary panic caused by this apparent negligence was particularly harmful" for those still facing trauma from the January 6 attack on the Capitol, she said, adding that Congress would review "what precisely went wrong today and who at the Federal Aviation Administration will be held accountable for this outrageous and frightening mistake."

There was no immediate explanation for the order, but Pelosi was clear it came after a parachute display that was part of a baseball pregame show for "Military Appreciation Night" at Nationals Stadium.

'Very Stressful 15 Minutes'

NBC's Capitol Hill correspondent Garrett Haake tweeted that he had "Just watched some people parachute down over/near the US Capitol amid an evacuation order."

NBC, citing police, said they were part of a demonstration by the Golden Knights at the stadium. The Golden Knights are the US Army's official aerial parachute demonstration team.

"Seems they might not have told Capitol Police they'd be in the airspace. One officer here told me she saw the small plane appearing to circle before the parachuters jumped," Haake tweeted.

The stadium is roughly 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometers) from the Capitol. The Nationals were playing the Arizona Diamondbacks there Wednesday.

The US Capitol was the focal point of an actual violent attack just 15 months ago, when supporters of then-president Donald Trump stormed the building in an effort to stop certification of Joe Biden's presidential election victory.

Despite Wednesday's scare being a false alarm, lawmakers and visitors were shaken by the warning.

"We just went through a very stressful 15 minutes, but we are thankful that everyone is safe," Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-NM) said on Twitter.

CNN's congressional correspondent Ryan Nobles said he was among those evacuated, and that "for a good 15 minutes it was pretty frantic."

"The alarms were loud and intense and Capitol Police were not messing around getting people out," he tweeted.

Two young Swiss tourists visiting Washington said they were walking towards the historic white domed Capitol to take a tour when police waved them away from the structure.

"They shut the security barriers behind us. They didn't tell us why and I thought it was better not to ask," one of the tourists, who asked not to be named, told AFP.

Proud Boys Indicted In Capitol Riot Have Police Ties

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Long before the insurrection on the U.S. Capitol, Charles Donohoe, leader of the Proud Boys' North Carolina chapter, was sharing posts via Telegram about his yearning for violence.

"We need to stop fighting Antifa in the streets where the cops are and start fighting them in bars and alleys," Donohoe wrote back in 2019. "We need to stomp them. We need to ruin their lives physically like they have ruined ours financially with doxxing. We need to rack up their hospital bills. We need to use special operations tactics and lightning strike them."

According to The Daily Beast, his previous profile photo on the encrypted social network featured him shaking hands with a member of the D.C. Metropolitan Police, later identified as Collin Cole, a Black police officer who served in the Marines with Donohoe.

In a Facebook post around that time, Donohoe spoke of counter-protests scheduled to take place in Downtown D.C. He tagged Cole, who responded to the post by saying, "I'll be working downtown today for the protests."

Donohoe replied to the officer saying, "You'll see me me [sic] I'm with the proud boys. Don't publicly announce this please Antifa is trying to ruin our weekend." To which, Cole responded: "Of course not! I'll keep an eye out."

In the wake of Donohoe's recent arrest for his alleged participation in the Capitol riots, the New York Times did a bit of research to learn more about the Proud Boys leader. The publication reported that he and quite a few others have ties to law enforcement. When the Daily Beast reached out to Cole for comment, he claimed that he was not aware of Donohoe's arrest only saying, "Wow. Wow. Wow. I do not want to be associated with that."

He also claimed he had no knowledge of the far-right groups Donohoe spoke of when he'd tagged him to his previous posts. "I guess he was just warning me like, 'Be careful, Antifa's attacking,' but it wasn't anything past that," Cole said.

Further research also revealed Donohoe is not the only member of the Proud Boys with ties to law enforcement. The publication reports that Zach Rehl, identified as a Marine veteran who serves as the president of the Proud Boys' Philadelphia chapter, also has deep ties to law enforcement.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Rehl—described as one of the far-right organization's "most visible representatives on the East Coast"— has family ties to the police department. Last summer, Rehl was also seen "mingling with officers at the Philadelphia police union hall."

Previous reports also suggest Rehl has strong ties to the police department. Following a rally back in September, the Daily Beast noted that the "Philadelphia Proud Boys were accompanied back to their cars by a police caravan. A Philadelphia Police officer was filmed talking to and shaking hands with the group in what the city's district attorney described to The Daily Beast as an "extra-friendly" interaction."

The group's connections with law enforcement raise a number of questions about their ties. Currently, Philadelphia Police detective Jennifer Gugger is also at the center of an internal department investigation for her alleged attendance of former President Donald Trump's rally that preceded the deadly Capitol riots.

The latest reports come as Donohoe, Rehl, and a number of other Proud Boys members face charges for the insurrection on the U.S. Capitol. On Wednesday, March 17, Donohoe was arrested and charged with conspiracy for his alleged involvement in the U.S. Capitol riots.

As Hate Crimes Increase, Police Are Reporting Them Less

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

The deluge of hate crimes unleashed by Donald Trump's presidency continued unabated during 2019, according to statistics just released by the FBI: The numbers of bias-motivated crimes in the U.S. rose to the highest level in more than a decade, with some 7,314 incidents reported, and increase of about 3 percent in an already elevated plateau that began after Trump's election. It was also the deadliest year on record for hate crimes, part of a trend toward increasing attacks on persons and increasing lethality.

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Pandemic Kills More Police Officers Than All Other Causes Combined

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

On Aug. 31, Democratic nominee for president Joe Biden made a speech in Pittsburgh where he said: "More cops have died from COVID this year than have been killed on patrol." Very quickly conservatives everywhere wondered whether or not that could be true. Weren't police officers mostly being gunned down by unarmed Black men or as a result of antifa-related soup can bludgeonings? But it turns out that sadly, the complete failure of our current administration to properly protect the health of Americans from the pandemic has predictably extended towards the state's law enforcement apparatus.

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Danziger: Uneasy Riders

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.com.

Danziger: License To Kill

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.com.

How Jeff Sessions Misrepresented The Trump Administration’s Expansion Of Military Supplies For Police

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica.

 

Update, Sept. 1, 2017, 1:55 p.m.: This story has been updated with a quote from Sheriff Mike Bouchard of Oakland County, Michigan.

The Trump administration made false assertions to justify an executive order expanding police forces’ access to military equipment such as tanks and grenade launchers.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced on Monday that President Trump would make defensive gear available to police again by undoing a policy from the Obama administration. Trump then signed an executive order whose title emphasized that branding: “Restoring State, Tribal, and Local Law Enforcement’s Access to Life-Saving Equipment and Resources.”

“He is rescinding restrictions from the prior administration that limited your agencies’ ability to get equipment through federal programs, including life-saving gear like Kevlar vests and helmets and first-responder and rescue equipment like what they’re using in Texas right now,” Sessions said in the speech.

But that’s not what the Obama administration’s restrictions did, according to documentation from a unit inside of Sessions’ own Justice Department, the Bureau of Justice Assistance.

Kevlar vests were never subject to any restrictions. Most helmets weren’t, either. Riot helmets (defined as those with shields over the face), Humvees and helicopters that are sometimes used in rescue missions, were still available to police forces as long as they explained why they needed them and certified that they had protocols and training in place so officers would use them safely. That requirement was dropped for riot helmets last October.

“Kevlar vests were never on any lists. That part is simply lying about what we did,” said Roy Austin, who worked on the Obama policy as a deputy assistant to the president for the Office of Urban Affairs, Justice and Opportunity. “He was being untruthful about helmets as well.”

A Justice Department spokesman acknowledged that the items Sessions cited were never prohibited by the Obama administration and that only some of them were even subject to additional procedures. Still, the spokesman, who did not want to be named, said: “There is absolutely nothing misleading about what the Attorney General said.”

What the Obama administration did actually prohibit were tanks, weaponized vehicles, .50 caliber guns, grenade launchers, bayonets and digital-pattern camouflage uniforms. Those restrictions applied only to purchases using federal dollars through a Pentagon surplus program. Police departments remained free to buy them with state, local or private funds.

“The attorney general and whoever advised him on these policies didn’t read them carefully and didn’t understand what they actually did,” said Ed Chung, who worked on the Obama administration policies in the Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs. “The safety of officers was never jeopardized because the overwhelming majority of equipment, including the ones cited by the attorney general, were still available to law enforcement.”

The Obama administration implemented the restrictions in the spring of 2016 in response to public concerns over the display of military-style hardware deployed by police to control riots in Ferguson, Missouri, after an officer fatally shot Michael Brown. Chung said the administration worked with civil rights organizations and police groups in an effort to meet law enforcement agencies’ needs while improving their relations with the communities they protect.

Sessions, in his speech, harshly dismissed such considerations. “We will not put superficial concerns above public safety,” he said.

The attorney general asserted that the types of equipment limited by the Obama administration saved an officer from a bullet at the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando and helped police pursue the shooters in San Bernardino. But that’s not accurate, either. As shown in the very articles that Justice Department officials provided to reporters to support Sessions’ speech, the Orlando officer’s helmet that blocked the bullet wasn’t a riot helmet, so it never faced any restrictions. And the armored vehicles used in San Bernardino had wheels, so the Obama policy still permitted them, with the additional precautions described above. The Obama administration only prohibited buying tanks (armored vehicles that run on tracks instead of wheels) using federal resources.

Sessions shared an anecdote in which a sheriff told him that the Obama administration “made his department return an armored vehicle that can change the dynamics of an active shooter situation.” The Obama administration did ask those few departments that had tanks to return them, according to Chung and Austin, but offered to replace them with equivalent wheeled vehicles.

“For every tracked vehicle, we replaced it with a wheeled vehicle so they didn’t lose anything,” Austin said. “His anecdote makes no sense because it skips the whole part that if they really needed this thing, all they had to do was say we want a replacement and we’d provide a replacement.”

Sessions’ anecdote referred to Sheriff Mike Bouchard of Oakland County, Michigan, who is also vice president of government affairs for the advocacy group Major County Sheriffs of America. In an interview, Bouchard confirmed that the Obama administration replaced his tracked armored personnel carrier with a wheeled one, but he said the wheeled version wasn’t as useful on the sandy and marshy terrain he has in his county.

The Justice Department spokesman said the Obama administration’s additional measures were onerous because departments had to demonstrate a “clear and persuasive” need for the equipment, certify approval from a civilian governing body and keep records of incidents when the equipment was used.

By repealing the Obama administration’s policy, the Trump administration also abolished reporting procedures to help the government keep better track of the equipment it distributes. The Government Accountability Office recently tested the controls in the same program by creating a fake agency that was able to obtain $1.2 million worth of night-vision goggles, and simulated pipe bombs and other potentially lethal items.

“We viewed the Obama reforms as very modest,” said Kanya Bennett, a lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union. “We’re certainly disappointed not only by the action that the administration took on Monday but again in suggesting to the public that the previous administration had taken away critical tools for law enforcement. In reality, there was very little that the Obama administration did with respect to taking military weapons and equipment out of rotation for state and local law enforcement use.”

Sessions’ speech cited studies showing that such equipment reduces crime, assaults on officers and complaints against them. In the materials provided to reporters, Justice Department officials pointed to a pair of studies in the American Economic Journal. But those studies considered all equipment supplied through the Pentagon’s surplus program, without distinguishing the items the Obama administration restricted. They also studied the years 2006 to 2012, before the Obama policies took effect.

“Our findings do not necessarily mean that saturating our local law enforcement agencies with military hardware is good policy,” researchers at the University of Tennessee wrote in one of the papers. “These results should not be used to diminish concerns about police-community relations, the role of police in our society, violence against civilians by police, or vice versa.”

The other study observed that the type of equipment that had the biggest effect on reducing crime was nonlethal non-military gear, such as computers and office supplies. The researchers suspect that’s because those supplies free up time and money for officers to spend on policing.

“There is a tendency to conflate military equipment with weapons,” the lead researcher, Vincenzo Bove at the University of Warwick of England, told ProPublica in an email. “Whereas we find that weapons is an unproductive category (it does not significantly affect crime) the miscellaneous category has the strongest effect, followed by vehicles and gear.”

“We do not explore the effect on crime of the items prohibited under the Obama policy,” Bove added. “But, as most of the prohibited items were weapons, note they do not seem to have (in aggregate) any effect on crime.”

Sessions announced the change of policy at a meeting of the Fraternal Order of Police, which viewed repealing the Obama-era restrictions as one of its top-priority asks for the Trump administration. “The previous administration was more concerned about the image of law enforcement being too ‘militarized’ than they were about our safety,” the organization’s president, Chuck Canterbury, said in a statement.

But not all police groups agree. The Obama policy was sensible to restrict non-essential lethal equipment like bayonets and to encourage police to consult local elected officials before acquiring equipment that could be controversial, said Jim Bueermann, president of the Police Foundation and a retired police chief in Redlands, California.

“The Obama executive order represented a best practice for acquiring military surplus equipment for local policing, and I still think it could serve and should serve as a best practice even though the rules have changed,” he said. “I was supportive of the overarching goals of the previous executive order, but I also understand what this president is trying to do. I view this through the lens of a police chief, and I would say to my city manager and council, ‘Ignore all of this that’s the federal government’s activity — under both sets of rules, we should still go to the public to explain our rationale.’”