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Law enforcement professionals are more likely to encounter dangerous extremists than virtually any other segment of American society — and those confrontations are, tragically, sometimes fatal. In fact, a 2010 University of Maryland study found that 49 of more than 400 people killed by radical-right extremists since 1990, or nearly 15%, have been law enforcement officers. With that in mind, the SPLC has undertaken a number of initiatives to equip officers with information and other resources that may help them carry out their duties with a minimum of danger to themselves.
Our free law enforcement trainings teach officers how to recognize hate groups, symbols and activity; the threat potential of specific groups; and how to respond to hate group activity. The Extremist Files contains updated biographical profiles of leading hate groups and extremist leaders, plus background on the various extremist ideologies. And our Hate Map helps officials locate extremist groups within their communities.
The Law Enforcement Response to Hate Events
Law enforcement officers may be tasked with upholding the free speech rights of hate group members – even hard-core racists – in the face of opposition from citizens in the community. This 13 minute roll call video outlines how to effectively respond when hate comes to town.
- Download our Event Response Checklist
- Read the Independent Review of the 2017 Protest Events in Charlottesville, Virginia.
'Lone Wolf' Terrorists
Violent attacks by “lone wolf” extremists have claimed many lives in recent years – none more than the June 17, 2015, attack on the historic Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C., where nine African-American worshipers were shot to death by a white supremacist.
Research by the Southern Poverty Law Center shows that, of 63 domestic terrorism attacks, plots and other incidents of extremist violence between April 2009 and February 2015, three-quarters were the work of a single person acting without the support of a group. Nine out of 10 were carried out by no more than two people. Because of the few number of people involved, these kinds of plots are the most difficult for law enforcement to detect in advance. The 12-minute video below is designed to help law enforcement better understand this threat and how to combat it.
- Read our report Age of the Wolf: A Study of the Rise of Lone Wolf and Leaderless Resistance Terrorism
White Supremacist Prison Gangs
Members of white supremacist, or “Aryan,” prison gangs – which operate both inside and outside prison walls – pose a serious threat to correctional and law enforcement officers. On March 19, 2013, the head of Colorado’s prison system was assassinated at his home. The suspected gunman, who was later killed in a police shootout in Texas after wounding a deputy and crashing his car during a chase, was a member of such a gang. He was the second member of Crew 211 to die in a confrontation with law enforcement within a 13-month span.
Below is a 15-minute training video produced by the SPLC to help officers understand the structure of these gangs, their criminal enterprises and the signs, such as distinctive tattoos, that they can use to identify members’ affiliations. Other SPLC resources are also listed.
- Prison Break, Intelligence Report, Summer 2013. The execution-style murder of the Colorado prisons chief was almost certainly the work of a white supremacist prison gang member. Was he operating on orders?
- ‘Blood Out,’ Intelligence Report, Winter 2012. Leaving the Aryan Brotherhood can be a dangerous business. One former leader explains why he nevertheless quit the prison gang.
- Former ‘Commissioner’ John Greschner Discusses Life and Death in the Aryan Brotherhood, Intelligence Report, Winter 2012. John Greschner, who is serving a life sentence for murder, spent 24 years in the Aryan Brotherhood, many of them as one of three "commissioners" overseeing the deadly gang's activities in federal prisons. Now, Greschner is going public about the racist group's murders, its banking and collection system, and a whole lot more.
- Aryan ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ Fugitives Suspected in Double Murder, Intelligence Report, Winter 2010. Before a manhunt for two members of the Aryan Brotherhood white supremacist prison gang was over, a couple was found murdered in New Mexico, apparent victims of the fugitives.
- Killer Kindred, Intelligence Report, Spring 2010. An Oregon-based racist prison and street gang has produced an incredible amount of criminal violence. And the beat goes on.
- Supreme Court Requires Prisons Give Special Consideration to Racist Pagans, Intelligence Report, Fall 2009. Correctional officials around the country struggle with a court ruling accommodating Odinism, a sometimes racist religion.
- Racist Prison Riot on Hitler's Birthday, Intelligence Report, Fall 2008. A lunchtime celebration of Adolf Hitler's birthday by a white supremacist prison gang sparked a bloody prison riot involving more than 200 inmates at the U.S. penitentiary in Florence, Colo.
- Deadly Aryan Circle Prison Gang Faces Heat, Intelligence Report, Spring 2008. Implicated in Cops' Murder, Aryan Gang Faces New Heat.
- Aryan Circle Blamed for Two Cop Killings, Intelligence Report, Winter 2007. Even more radical than the prison gang that spawned it, the Aryan Circle, blamed in a recent cop-killing, has officials worried.
- Being a Brother, Intelligence Report, Fall 2005. Secret Aryan Brotherhood documents unearthed in a raid detail the rules for members of the notorious prison gang.
- Leaders of Racist Prison Gang Aryan Brotherhood Face Federal Indictment, Intelligence Report , Fall 2005. A massive federal indictment names the senior leadership of America's most frightening prison gang. But will it work?
- 'Aryan' Gang Leader Sentenced for Racketeering, Intelligence Report, Fall 2005. Modeled after the Aryan Brotherhood, the Soldiers of Aryan Culture gradually established criminal syndicates outside prison walls as its members were released.
- Nazi Low Riders Boast Over 1,000 Members, Most in Prison, Intelligence Report, Summer 2004. The young inmates in the Nazi Low Riders, a group well-known for violence and drug trafficking, made an alliance with the white supremacist Aryan Brotherhood — and took on both their extremist ideology and their notoriety.
- Radical Religion in Prison, Intelligence Report, Fall 2003. Attorney Brian Levin investigates the tenuous balance between security and radical, racial-supremacist religion in prison.
- The Belly of the Beast, Intelligence Report, Winter 2002. Racist prison gangs hit the street. The death of founder William Pierce leads to rifts within the neo-Nazi National Alliance. Neo-Confederate extremists sieze control of the formerly moderate Sons of Confederate Veterans.
- Extremist Prison Gangs Spill Into Mainstream, Intelligence Report, Winter 2002. White supremacist prison gangs are increasingly active in the free world. Here are some examples.
- Leo Felton’s Prison Plot, Aryan Unit One, Hits the Streets, Intelligence Report, Winter 2002. Racist gangs have flourished inside America's prisons over the last few decades — and more and more, their hatred is boiling over into free society.
- Mark Pitcavage of the Anti-Defamation League Discusses Race-Based Gangs and other Extremists in Prison, Intelligence Report, Winter 2002. An expert discusses the role of race-based gangs and other extremists in America’s prisons.
- Prison Plots Become More Common Among White Supremacist Groups, Intelligence Report, Winter 2002. A growing number of criminal plots in the free world are born behind prison walls and recently released convicts are its soldiers.
- Descent into Darkness, Intelligence Report, Summer 2002. Two liberal San Francisco attorneys got involved in the Aryan Brotherhood. It cost them their freedom, and their souls.
- Intelligence Report Special Edition - Aryan Prison Gangs
Racist skinheads are among the most violent and volatile elements of the white supremacist movement and have been responsible for numerous murders and other acts of violence, often targeting minorities. Law enforcement officials face significant danger when confronting them. Below is a 12-minute training video produced by the SPLC to help officers learn more about the skinhead subculture and the warning signs that can help them deal with the threat. Other SPLC resources are also listed.
- Essay: Skinheads in America
- Racist Skinhead Symbols and Tattoos
- Timeline of the Racist Skinhead Movement
- Leaving the Neo-Nazi Lifestyle, and Tattoos, Behind
- Blood & Honour
- Keystone United
- Vinlanders Social Club
- Eric "The Butcher" Fairburn
- Brien James
- Randal Lee Krager
- American Front Members Arrested
- Intelligence Report Special Edition - Racist Skinheads: Understanding the Threat
If you are an officer who specializes in tracking racist skinheads, there is a national organization dedicated to that purpose. The Skinhead Intelligence Network – or SIN – is a unique network of officers that is meant to aid law enforcement in monitoring, tracking and prosecuting racist skinheads involved in criminal activity. Active-duty officers interested in more information about joining SIN can email their inquiries to email@example.com.
- Terror From the Right: 75 Plots, Conspiracies and Racist Rampages Since Oklahoma City. This booklet outlines terrorism from the domestic radical right since 1995. Includes a roster of murdered law enforcement officials.
- Skinheads in America: Racists on the Rampage (PDF). This resource outlines the history of the racist skinhead movement in America. Includes a timeline, a glossary of skinhead terms, profiles of several leaders, and a section detailing racist symbols and tattoos.
- The Second Wave: Return of the Militias. This 2009 white paper detailing the return of the antigovernment "Patriot" militias that produced so much criminal violence during their first iteration in the 1990s.
The articles summarized below are selected from the SPLC's quarterly Intelligence Report magazine and may be of special interest to law enforcement officials.
- "Devil's Den: Inside the Aryan Nations," 2008. A review of a book by confidential informant Dave Hall and his handler, FBI agent Tim Burkey, that details their work against the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations.
- "Breaking the Skins," 2006. Details the work of Mesa, Ariz., Detective Matt Browning, who infiltrated murderous racist skinhead groups.
- "Going Undercover," 2006. In an interview, former FBI agent Mike German discusses working undercover against racist skinhead groups and antigovernment militias.
- "End of Watch," 2005. Details the stories of 15 law enforcement officials murdered by radical-right extremists. Also includes a slide show of the slain officers.
- "The Abbeville Horror," 2004. Tells the story of two law enforcement officials murdered by members of the Bixby family, zealots of the antigovernment "Patriot" movement, in Abbeville, S.C.
- "At Death's Door," 2003. An interview with David Koenig, a former Dayton, Ohio, police officer who was shot nearly to death in a 1979 encounter with the late Harold (Ray) Redfeairn, one of the most notorious figures of the radical racist right.
- "On the Streets," 2003. A profile of Sgt. Brett Parson of Washington, D.C.'s Metropolitan Police, who headed one of the country's most effective liaison units to sexual minorities in the community.
The 'Sovereign Citizens' Movement
Sovereign citizens, who believe that they do not have to obey most federal and state laws, have been a particular danger to law enforcement officials because of their belief that the government has no authority to require driver's licenses and vehicle registrations.In May 2010, two so-called sovereigns murdered two police officers and badly wounded two more in the latest such violence.
- Download this video (.mov, 1.44G)What follows are a number of articles published in the Fall 2010 issue of the Intelligence Report, including pointers for law enforcement and a lexicon of sovereign terminology.
- "'Sovereign' Citizen Kane," 2010. A broad overview of the sovereign citizens movement, its beliefs and how it has recently swelled to as many as 300,000 people. Includes information about officers murdered by sovereigns.
- "The Sovereigns," 2010. Short profiles of a dozen contemporary sovereign leaders.
- "A Dictionary of the Peculiar," 2010. A lexicon of the peculiar words and phrases favored by sovereign citizens.
- "Tips for Law Enforcement," 2010. Key tips for law enforcement officers who may encounter sovereign citizens in their work.
- "The Paranoid Style," 2010. Editorial by Intelligence Report Editor Mark Potok exploring the link between conspiracy theories and criminal violence. Intelligence Report Special Edition - Sovereign Citizens
Understanding the Threat: Antigovernment Extremists
"Understanding the Threat: Antigovernment Extremists," 2016. A short film designed to be shown at roll call, focuses on the rising threat of the antigovernment “Patriot” movement, especially in the wake of armed standoffs between militant radicals and law enforcement officials in Nevada in 2014 and Oregon in 2016.
The Intelligence Report occasionally runs "Legal Briefs," some of which may be especially useful to law enforcement officials.
- "Of Race and Roads," 2009. Racial profiling is not only illegal, but also remarkably ineffective.
- "Prosecutorial Discretion," 2007. What are the limits to the discretion of officials in choosing to prosecute or not to prosecute?
- "Peace and Protest," 2006. Can police officials force protesters to identify themselves?
- "Officer Klansman," 2006. A Nebraska arbitrator's ruling that the state police must rehire an admitted Klansman is almost certainly in error.
- "Hit List or Free Speech?" 2002. When does the targeting of certain individuals cross the legal line?
- "Guarding Against Hate," 2000. Prison authorities face significant legal hazards if they tolerate racist guards.
- "Unmasking the Klan," 1999. Are anti-masking laws aimed at the Klan enforceable under the Constitution?
- "Avoiding Violence at Klan Rallies," 1998. Outlines steps cities may legally take when radical groups plan rallies.