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

IR: Doesn't that set off alarm bells at these schools?

BOUMAN: The schools can't turn kids away just because they're racists. If they see swastikas or offensive clothing, they can make them change clothes and not allow them to put these symbols on their books. But they can't keep them from coming into school.

You can admonish them for publicly expressing slurs, but you can't keep them from talking about their beliefs in private.

IR: How does recruitment on the streets, as opposed to in the schools, work?

BOUMAN: It's the same as in the schools — hate group recruitment works best when you have the demographics of a changing community.

Recruiting often takes place much more publicly than you'd expect — and this is something that police officers can take advantage of. For example, in Orange County, for years you could go down to a local beach city and see the racist white kids sitting in a parking lot off the main street, about two blocks from the pier. A business owner allowed them to gather in the parking lot because he thought that if he didn't they would damage his building.

The police couldn't very well say, "Hey, don't let them do this." Instead, officers would go out there and get to know these kids. They didn't harass them as long as they didn't harass other people or break any laws. That way they kept them off the street. They'd gather, wearing their garb and talking about their beliefs. There'd be 20 or 30 kids, even more if outsiders were talking to them.

IR: Youth street gangs are sometimes described as alternative families for kids with dysfunctional home lives. Is that true of white supremacist youth gangs, too?

BOUMAN: Absolutely. Tom Metzger used to bring in kids who weren't acceptable to their families or anyone else and let them stay with him. He gave them alcohol and cigarettes, or whatever it took to get them to believe. They used to get lots of kids this way.

It's not unusual — hate groups have been doing it for years. [Long-time Alabama Klansman and four-time felon] Bill Riccio, who is back in the KKK, used to go into the streets of Birmingham, Ala., to recruit teenage Skinheads. His group [the Aryan National Front] broke up after he went to prison, but he still gets around. He had a house where all these kids met and he gave them free beer; I have a video of a young boy in the house talking about what they believe in and why white supremacy is the way to go.

Riccio used the "14 Words" [penned by David Lane] — "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White children" — big time in his recruiting.

Riccio was crazy — one of his recruits even killed a homeless man. He has also worked on the West Coast. He and Metzger were teaching people here how to recruit kids. They loved runaways too. They'd pick the runaways up, give them booze and drugs and affection, and soon white supremacy became their family.

IR: Don't many young people seek out the groups themselves?

BOUMAN: Sure. Look at Benjamin Smith from the World Church of the Creator. [Editor's note: Smith, a follower and close friend of group leader Matt Hale, went on a July 1999 rampage in Illinois and Indiana that left two minorities dead and another seven wounded. Smith shot himself to death as police closed in.]

He was a college student who came to them. They didn't go to Smith. He was not happy with the world and found the group on the Internet.

IR: So is the Internet a useful youth recruiting tool for these hate groups?

BOUMAN: [Former Klan leader] Don Black, founder of Stormfront [the first major hate site on the Internet] had his son Derek, 14, put together a Web site section for kids, and he uses it to recruit little kids. Don helped Derek put these sites together when Derek was 9 years old.

When I visit schools throughout California, I find that kids are using the school's computers to access Stormfront's kid page. I talk about blocking the systems so the kids can't access it, but most libraries don't want to block it because of the threat to freedoms.

It's unbelievable where kids can go on the Internet. And they can do it anywhere. Derek Black even changed around a [commercial] video game so that users can kill blacks. They actually changed the figures to black figures.