Officers who swear loyalty to oath guards should be sacked, mayor says

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Any New York City police officer who pledges allegiance to the Oath Keepers or other violent “far-right nationalist” groups should be investigated by the Police Department, charged internally and removed from service. force, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Friday. .

“If we confirm that a police officer has pledged allegiance to Oath Keepers and these values ​​- of course there will be due process, they deserve a trial – but if that turns out to be the case, they should not be a member of the NYPD, ”De Blasio said during an appearance on“ The Brian Lehrer Show ”on WNYC.

Mr De Blasio’s statements came after WNYC and Gothamist reported this week that at least two active-duty New York City police officers had teamed up with the Oath Keepers, a militia group whose members participated in the January 6 riot on the United States Capitol.

“The NYPD is making very aggressive efforts to find threats because they are the biggest threats right now, the right wing militias,” the mayor said, defining such groups as promoting hatred against immigrants and people from different ethnic or racial origins.

Possible links between the officers, who were not named in the report, and the Oath Keepers were revealed in a hacked database that listed the names, contact details and personal information of people affiliated with the group as recently as ‘in 2017.

The New York Times could not independently confirm whether any of the people listed in the database were police officers on active duty. It was also impossible to determine from a review of the database if any of the people named in it were currently engaged with the Oath Keepers or if they were involved in the January 6 attack.

A spokesperson for the police department confirmed the WNYC-Gothamist report was under internal investigation, but declined to answer further questions, including whether department employees had previously been sanctioned for affiliation to a militia.

The Oath Keepers were founded in 2009 and primarily attract members from law enforcement, serving and retired military personnel. More than 20 members of the group face criminal charges in connection with the Capitol Riot.

Mr de Blasio’s comments, and his insistence that members of the police department who are active in the Oath Keepers or similar groups be investigated and terminated, add a new twist to an already difficult problem for police forces across the United States, who have struggled to identify and formally discipline members who they believe hold extremist views.

There are no precise figures on the number of police officers who have explicit links with extremist groups. But many experts have long warned that far-right ideology and domestic extremism have escalated in the ranks of law enforcement and military agencies.

In New York, the Police Department’s Patrol Guide prohibits employees from associating with groups that promote “hatred, oppression or prejudice based on race, religion, gender, identity / l ‘gender expression, sexual orientation or disability’. Ministry rules also prohibit employees from associating with groups or individuals suspected of being involved in criminal activity. Under the disciplinary directives from the ministry, such conduct may result in termination.

But it has been difficult for the ministry to identify what kind of conduct constitutes a violation of patrol guides and what is allowed as constitutionally protected speech. Some officers have been disciplined or investigated for behavior suggesting a connection to extremist ideology. For others, the indiscretions have fallen into troubled territory.

Dennis Kenney, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said many law enforcement agencies do not clearly define the type of organization officers cannot join. They also do not explain whether certain types of activity may be acceptable, while others may constitute dismissal offenses.

“If I receive their newsletter, does that mean that I am a member or that I am just curious and so on? ” He asked.

In New York in particular, uncertainty about the rules for police engagement with right-wing groups has often played out in plain sight.

Officers allegedly displayed extremist symbols during protest patrols. Current officer under investigation to socialize with right-wing leaders at the United States Capitol shortly before the January 6 riot. Edward D. Mullins, who heads the city’s powerful Sergeants’ Union, once gave an interview to Fox News, flanked by QAnon paraphernalia, a marginal conspiracy theory.

Mr De Blasio underlined the challenge of regulating such activity and warned against creating a A “witch hunt” atmosphere within the city’s agencies.

“I think part of who we are as Americans is being very, very careful about how we denigrate and how we use the power of government to investigate,” Mr. From Blasio. “I think the way to do it is to go after specific leads and follow them in a very, very aggressive way.”

But, he added, members of the police department who made the decision to pledge allegiance to a group linked to the insurgent behavior should be investigated and tried by the department.

“When you look at the Oath Keepers manifesto, they are basically telling their members to challenge the orders of democratically elected civilian governments,” he said. “Anyone who claims allegiance to the Oath Keepers inherently denies their own oath as a police officer and cannot serve as a police officer under that status, they simply cannot.”

Alan Feuer contributed reporting.


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