WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — As Democrats held a hearing to examine ties between local police officers and white supremacist groups, Republican lawmakers slammed what they called dangerous anti-law enforcement rhetoric.
“Sympathizing with white supremacy is a problem with our law enforcement,” Heather Taylor, a retired sergeant from the St. Louis Police Department and president of the Ethical Society of Police, said during the Tuesday hearing.
She said most officers are good, but those who are racist are too often hiding in plain sight.
“He once stated, ‘Black people are pathetic,'” she said of one such officer. “He also cheered a Black man being shot in the head.”
She urged Congress to do more to prevent racists from making it onto the force.
The FBI warned of ties between white supremacy groups and local police agencies in a 2006 report on domestic terror threats. Observers point to signs of such connections during recent protests over police reform and racial inequity.
Democrats say recently uncovered social media posts speak volumes about the problem.
“Anti-Black racism, anti-Hispanic racism, Islamophobia,” Rep. Lacy Clay, D-Mo., listed.
“I think it’s important that the FBI and Department of Justice to put together a national strategy to protect the public from these officers,” Michael German of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School said.
But Pima County, Arizona, Sheriff Mark Napier argued the problem is not widespread.
“These are the actions of a very, very few members of law enforcement,” he told lawmakers at the hearing.
He said agencies are already doing their part to weed out racists.
“Today, we even scan social media looking for troubling posts and questionable associations,” he said.
Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, meanwhile, said Democrats just wanted to slander law enforcement.
“It is a dangerous path that my Democratic colleagues are pursuing in defining our law enforcement personnel as systemically racist,” he said.
The FBI declined an invitation to attend the hearing, telling Democrats they do not have evidence white supremacy in law enforcement is a widespread problem demanding its attention.