Inside hate groups on Facebook, police officers trade racist memes, conspiracy theories and Islamophobia | Reveal…
The groups cover a range of extremist ideologies. Some present themselves publicly as being dedicated to benign historical discussion of the Confederacy, but are replete with racism inside.
Some trade in anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant memes. Some are openly Islamophobic. And almost 150 of the officers we found are involved with violent anti-government groups such as the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters.
In Portland, Oregon, police officers were found to have been texting with a far-right group that regularly hosts white supremacists and white nationalists at its rallies.
A classified FBI Counterterrorism Policy Guide from April 2015, obtained by The Intercept, warned that white supremacists and other far-right groups had infiltrated American law enforcement.
Most of the hateful Fb groups these cops frequent are closed, meaning only members are allowed to see content posted by other members.

Reveal joined dozens of these groups and verified the identities of almost 400 current and retired law enforcement officials who are members.
One guard at the Angola prison in Louisiana, Geoffery Crosby, was a member of 56 extremist groups, including 45 Confederate groups and one called “BAN THE NAACP.”
A detective at the Harris County Sheriff’s Office in Houston, James “J.T.” Thomas, was a member of the closed Facebook group “The White Privilege Club.”
The group contains hundreds of hateful, racist and anti-Semitic posts; links to interviews with white supremacists such as Richard Spencer; and invites to events such as the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville.
After being presented with Thomas’ postings on Facebook, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office fired him in February for violating a number of employee conduct policies.
Peter Simi, an associate professor of sociology at Chapman University who has studied extremist groups for more than 20 years, said biased views like those expressed in these Facebook groups inevitably influence an individual’s decision-making process.
Facebook algorithms appear to play a role in strengthening biases. The more extreme groups we joined, the more Facebook suggested new – and often even more troubling – groups to join or pages to like.
Disciplinary records and investigations into police misconduct are kept secret in a majority of states, meaning most American cops enjoy a blanket of protection that can cover up biases.
But in some cases, Reveal found public documents that showed the officers identified via Facebook also had been involved in real-life instances of alleged #racism or other misconduct.
Will Weisenberger, a sheriff’s deputy in Madison County, Mississippi, was a member of a closed Facebook group called “White Lives Matter.”
He’s also been caught up in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union against the department for allegedly engaging in decades of systemic racism and discriminatory policing.
Racism was so systematic at the Madison County Sheriff’s Department, the ACLU asserts, that the department’s blank arrest forms came with two words already filled in:
“Black” and “Male.”
Lawyers for the ACLU deposed Weisenberger and asked him about an incident in which a fellow deputy alleged that Weisenberger had punched an African American man in the face while the man’s hands were cuffed.
Then they asked him if he ever uses any racial slurs while on duty.

“I may have used the N-word,” Weisenberger said, according to the deposition.

“It’s not something I’m proud of or do every day,” he continued.
Chicago, Lt. Richard Moravec was a member of a closed Facebook group called “Any islamist insults infidels, I will put him under my feet,” which disappeared from Facebook before we could join it or search it for posts by officers.
While we don’t know if he ever interacted with the Islamophobic group, Moravec has posted content that appears to be openly anti-transgender and anti-Islam on his personal Facebook page.
One meme Moravec posted featured a photo of a young girl with the caption, “Please! Don’t confuse me. I’m a girl. Don’t teach me to question if I’m a boy, transexual, transgendered, intersexed or two spirited.”
And Chicago’s open records on police conduct revealed that he also has been the subject of 70 allegations, including accusations of illegal use of force, verbal abuse and criminal misconduct, according to the Citizens Police Data Project.…
That’s more than 99 percent of Chicago police officers. One of the allegations resulted in a five-day suspension.

Moravec didn’t respond to a call for comment.
“To find cops with connections to extremist groups, we built lists of two different types of Facebook users: members of extremist groups and members of police groups.”
“We wrote software to download these lists directly from Fb, something the platform allowed at the time. In mid-2018, in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal and after we already had downloaded our data, Fb shut down the ability to download membership lists from groups.”
“Then we ran those two datasets against each other to find users who were members of at least one law enforcement group and one far-right group.

We got 14,000 hits.”
“We did not assume that everyone in a police Facebook group was an actual officer, because many could be relatives of police officers or just really into law enforcement”
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