Police Chief Says It’s Perfectly Fine An Officer Was Part Of A Hate Group Because The Cop Already Retired From Racism

In this Nov. 14, 2018 photo, East Hampton Police Chief Dennis Woessner addresses the Town Council in East Hampton. Woessner has concluded that an officer's membership in a far-right group infamous for engaging in violent clashes at political rallies didn't violate any department policies. Woessner said that officer Kevin P. Wilcox is no longer associated with the Proud Boys group.
In this Nov. 14, 2018 pho­to, East Hampton Police Chief Dennis Woessner address­es the Town Council in East Hampton. Woessner has con­clud­ed that an offi­cer’s mem­ber­ship in a far-right group infa­mous for engag­ing in vio­lent clash­es at polit­i­cal ral­lies did­n’t vio­late any depart­ment poli­cies. Woessner said that offi­cer Kevin P. Wilcox is no longer asso­ci­at­ed with the Proud Boys group. (Jeff Mill/​AP)

Michael Harriot

What would hap­pen if a police chief found out one of his offi­cers was a part of a white nation­al­ist orga­ni­za­tion known for vio­lent attacks? What if a jury had already deter­mined that the offi­cer was guilty of vio­lat­ing a citizen’s con­sti­tu­tion­al rights in a vio­lent attack? What if some­one could prove this cop had actu­al­ly paid dues to the vio­lent, white suprema­cist orga­ni­za­tion? Could you imag­ine what would hap­pen? Well, if this hap­pened in the lily-white vil­lage of East Hampton, Conn., the answer is:

Nothing at all.

The FBI clas­si­fies the Proud Boys as an “extrem­ist group with ties to white nation­al­ism.” The Southern Poverty Law Center has des­ig­nat­ed them a “hate group.” The New York Times and Wall-Street Journal calls them “far-right.” They were kicked off of most social media plat­forms for espous­ing white nation­al­ist ide­ol­o­gy. 

Proud Boys were con­vict­ed of gang vio­lence in New York and par­tic­i­pat­ed in the White Lives Matter ral­ly in Tennessee. Former Proud Boys mem­ber Jason Kessler orga­nized the “Unite the Right” march in Charlottesville, Va., and if you were so inclined, you could have met mem­bers of the “alt-right” fra­ter­nal orga­ni­za­tion protest­ing with neo-Nazis and attack­ing anti-racists in Berkeley, Calif.

Or, if you just hap­pen to be cruis­ing through Connecticut, you can just stop in East Hampton and ask to meet offi­cer Kevin P. Wilcox.

In June, Kristen Clarke, pres­i­dent of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, sent a let­ter to East Hampton Police Chief Dennis Woessner noti­fy­ing the depart­ment that Wilcox, a 10-year-vet­er­an of the force, was a known white suprema­cist. The June 24 let­ter also not­ed that a fed­er­al grand jury had deter­mined that Wilcox vio­lat­ed the con­sti­tu­tion­al rights of Alan P. Clark dur­ing a 2008 inci­dent that some­how result­ed in Clark get­ting beat in the head with Wilcox’s flash­light. The city even­tu­al­ly reached a con­fi­den­tial set­tle­ment in that case and Wilcox con­tin­ued his employ­ment as an offi­cer.

Officer Wilcox’s asso­ci­a­tion with white suprema­cists on pub­lic plat­forms, as well as his his­to­ry of vio­lence, risks inter­fer­ing with your department’s oper­a­tions by dis­rupt­ing the work­ing rela­tion­ships between the East Hampton Police Department and the com­mu­ni­ty it serves,” wrote Clarke in her let­ter to Chief Woessner.

In response, the chief’s posi­tion was basi­cal­ly: “Yeah, but why y’all always bring­ing up old shit?” explain­ing that Wilcox has retired from racism.

The Hartford Courant reports:

The East Hampton offi­cer, Kevin P. Wilcox, “stopped his asso­ci­a­tion” with the Proud Boys in February, about five months before the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law inquired about his social media con­nec­tions with oth­er group mem­bers, Police Chief Dennis Woessner said.

In a let­ter to the Washington-based civ­il rights group, the police chief acknowl­edged that Wilcox had been a Proud Boys mem­ber and made online pay­ments to a group leader. The rights group described those pub­licly vis­i­ble, online trans­ac­tions as month­ly dues that helped fund the Proud Boys’ “vio­lent or oth­er­wise ille­gal” activ­i­ties.

But the chief said he reviewed the mat­ter, received an “explana­to­ry report” from Wilcox and closed the department’s inquiry as being “unfound­ed,” with no evi­dence to sup­port a pol­i­cy vio­la­tion. Wilcox “adamant­ly denies being asso­ci­at­ed with white suprema­cists’ groups,” the chief wrote in a let­ter dat­ed Sept. 13.

Woessner claims “there’s no ques­tion” that Wilcox is not a white suprema­cist for a num­ber of rea­sons:

First of all, Woessner said he inves­ti­gat­ed the Proud Boys’ his­to­ry of vio­lence and hate by using a ground­break­ing inves­tiga­tive tech­nique: He Googled them. That’s not a joke. When reporters asked the god­damn police chief what he knew about the orga­ni­za­tion that has ter­ror­ized peo­ple across the coun­try for years, the chief respond­ed:

Only what I searched on the Internet.”

Ok, to be fair, maybe Chief Woessner used Bing. Proud Boys say they aren’t racists, they are “anti-polit­i­cal cor­rect­ness” and “anti-white apol­o­gists.” The chief also claims he looked at all of the stops Wilcox made since 2018 and not­ed that Wilcox has only stopped white peo­ple.

Oh.

Maybe I was wrong. Maybe Wilcox isn’t racist and this is proof. I would expect that a racist police offi­cer would prob­a­bly tar­get black peo­ple all the time, so I agree with Chief Whitesplainer that Wilcox might not be a white suprema­cist. Of course, the fact that East Hampton is 88 per­cent white and only 1 per­cent black prob­a­bly has noth­ing to do with that.

The Lawyers Committee is demand­ing that the city con­duct a thor­ough review of Wilcox’s traf­fic stops and any com­plaints that may have arisen before the offi­cer turned in his let­ter of res­ig­na­tion to the Proud Boys. The group also wants Wilcox fired and a Department of Justice inves­ti­ga­tion into whether anyone’s civ­il rights have been vio­lat­ed.

The infil­tra­tion of white suprema­cists into police depart­ments is a nation­al cri­sis,” Clarke said in a state­ment. “As com­mu­ni­ties con­tend with ris­ing hate crimes, it is crit­i­cal that African Americans and peo­ple of col­or have faith in local law enforce­ment. Police offi­cers who affil­i­ate with white suprema­cist groups con­tribute to a cli­mate of fear and mis­trust, infect the ranks with bias and racism, and exac­er­bate the divides between com­mu­ni­ties of col­or and the police.”

Although Chief Woessner’s log­ic makes no sense, I would like to declare to the East Hampton Police Department and racist cops every­where that I have for­mal­ly resigned from being stopped, frisked, arrest­ed and shot by white suprema­cists with badges.

Damn. I wish I had known it was that easy