Former Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Walter Bouman Has New Career Educating Law Enforcement about White Supremacist Groups

A retired California cop who lectures at schools nationwide offers tips about youth and hate

For more than 10 years, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Sgt. Walter Bouman interviewed virtually every white supremacist to come through Central Jail. After officials flagged the detainees because of tattoos or the nature of their alleged crimes, Bouman would pull each inmate aside and slowly begin a conversation. "We have all day, and I'm not leaving," he would tell his reluctant charges.

Bouman had an ability to size up and relate to these suspects and it wasn't long before many of the most hardened hate criminals began talking. Bouman's skills proved highly useful. He gave classes to the county's jail deputies and juvenile facility officers on how best to treat racist prisoners and later worked with the district attorney's office, traveling throughout the county training law enforcement officers on similar topics.

In 2000, after a 33-year career, Bouman retired. But he wasn't finished. Since then, he has developed a career educating law enforcement agencies, schools and communities about hate violence, domestic terrorism and youth. He has taught everything from hate crime investigation for members of the county sheriff's gang unit to how to deal with bullying for California's Department of Education.

Traveling around the nation, Bouman has lectured in approximately 500 school districts, for the National School Safety Center, and for the Department of Homeland Security. He is also on the advisory board of the Southern Poverty Law Center's online hate crime training program for law enforcement officers.

In an interview with the Intelligence Report, Bouman focused on youthful white supremacists.

INTELLIGENCE REPORT: How do white supremacist groups recruit the young?

WALTER BOUMAN: Their members go into schools and watch the kids. One method they employ is to go onto a campus and seek out two diverse groups, the exceptionally intelligent kids and the noticeably weak ones. As a group, young white supremacists are well rounded — you have some A students, athletes, computer geeks, and the D students. The groups are also recruiting more girls.

To build up a group, young white recruits sometimes will do something to the black students, if it's a majority white school. Wherever the black kids sit, the supremacists will put a swastika or the N-word or something offensive in a visible spot. For example, if there is a new black teacher they will put a swastika on that teacher's classroom door.

What they try to do is get the black students upset so that they'll attack some of the weaker whites. When the white students are attacked, then the racist gangs will come in and assist the weaker ones, putting them under the gang's protection.

The reason they want these weaker kids is because they are easily influenced to do something for "the cause." The groups cause trouble on campuses to see what they can get out of it and to help recruit those kids who are being picked on — when it comes to recruitment they're always looking for the kids being harassed.

IR: Have you ever made a criminal case out of a situation like this?

BOUMAN: In a middle school in Los Angeles. It happened about two years ago. There was a group of juveniles who had formed a white supremacist Skinhead group, and they decided that they wanted to get some other people to join. They didn't like the fact that the demographics around them were changing, that black students were coming to their school and that they had a new black teacher.

So as these black kids went home — in a certain direction, out of a certain gate, down certain streets — the white group was putting this racist graffiti up along the same path. It was a message of hate to the black kids.

Prosecutors got a case going against the gang — a great case, because we actually got them for a hate crime. They were only doing this where the black kids sat or walked. It was hate.

IR: You mentioned especially targeting smart kids.

BOUMAN: When you listen to leaders like Matthew Hale [the leader of the neo-Nazi World Church of the Creator, convicted this May of soliciting the murder of a federal judge], Tom Metzger [a former Klan leader and key supporter and one-time recruiter of young racist Skinheads] or David Lane [a white supremacist ideologue imprisoned for his role in the 1984 machine-gun murder of a Jewish radio talk show host in Denver], their whole thing is that they want the kids who follow them going to college.

They've tried going to colleges to recruit, but the kids there were already beyond their capacity to manipulate. Now they are going into high schools, middle schools and even some grammar schools because the smart kids there are still very open to ideological influences.