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Countering Hate & Extremism Through Policy & Data

Prohibiting Police Association with Hate and Antigovernment Extremist Groups

The law is a blunt instrument against hate and extremism. With a record number of white nationalist groups and incidents, record numbers of anti-LGBTQ+ groups, surging antisemitism and all-time-high levels of reported hate crimes, it is clear that hate and extremism cannot be prosecuted, legislated, regulated or tabulated out of existence.

More comprehensive hate crime data collection – and more inclusive hate crime laws – are necessary, but insufficient. These goals must be complemented with a commitment to address long-term contributors to hate and extremism, including government support for digital and media literacy initiatives, civics education and other programs to build a strong, inclusive, multiracial democracy, and serious efforts to reduce structural racism.

Among the most important trends the SPLC documented in this year’s report is that extremists are seeking to build political power at the local level and within institutions of power, with a resurgence of in-person demonstrations among racist and hard-right reactionary groups across the country.


In the face of these decentralized threats of intimidation and violence, local law enforcement officials must be trusted to protect all community members. Police officers are not immune from extremist ideologies that have been mainstreamed in recent years. But individuals tasked with protecting the public equitably cannot be trusted to do so if they associate with an openly racist, bigoted or misogynistic organization. Hard-right extremists strategically recruit police officers because of their weapons training and positions of power. Too frequently, police departments have been unwilling or unable to effectively discipline or remove officers involved in biased policing or active participation with white supremacist group activity. Several recent developments provide an improved accountability foundation on which to build.

Chicago Police Department: Progress in addressing extremism

Following a series of incidents in which the Chicago Police Department failed to investigate allegations of overt racist and white supremacist behavior in the ranks – or assessed weak discipline against officers directly associated with violent white supremacist groups – the SPLC wrote to the mayor and police superintendent urging the city “to adopt clear and unambiguous policies and procedures prohibiting city employees from actively associating with hate and extremist groups.”

The SPLC cited several recent examples of actions taken by federal and state officials to explicitly prohibit such activity.

Following disturbing evidence of disproportionate veteran involvement in the deadly Jan. 6 failed insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, the Department of Defense strengthened its prohibition against active participation by military personnel in extremist activities.

After the 2020 murder of George Floyd dramatically exposed systemic racism in our criminal legal system, President Biden issued a broad federal police reform executive order mandating the development of guidance that would, “consistent with the First Amendment … help avoid the hiring and retention of law enforcement officers who promote unlawful violence, white supremacy, or other bias against persons based on race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity), or disability.”

The Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) updated its rules and regulations to prohibit hiring and make it easier to dismiss officers who “join, support, advocate for, maintain membership in, or participate in the activities of a hate or extremist group” as defined by the rules.

After many months of review, SPLC staff promoted improvements to existing rules. In a significant step forward, Chicago’s civilian police oversight board unanimously approved a new policy designed to make clear that Chicago police officers are prohibited from active participation in an organization that “advocates for systematic illegal prejudice, oppression, or discrimination.”

We must now build on this progress to promote effective implementation of these new rules – and to promote adoption of similar policies across the country to ensure that individuals with bigoted and white supremacist views are not hired or retained by any federal, state, or local law enforcement agencies.

Illustration by McQuade Inc.

Fourteen Actions to Stop Hate

  • Ensure that the planners and perpetrators of the deadly Jan. 6 failed insurrection at the Capitol — and those who financed and inspired them to act — are held accountable, with serious consequences.
  • Make federal and state hate crime data collection mandatory, requiring credible reporting for funding.
  • Increase funding for programs authorized by the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, including state hate crime hotlines to increase victim reporting and assistance.
  • Increase funding for community-informed hate crime prevention initiatives, including support services for those targeted and impacted by bias-motivated harms. Fund early intervention and diversion programs for youth that center on social-emotional learning and not punishment.
  • Fund safe, evidence-based academic research on prevention programs that promote social cohesion and community wellness.
  • Enforce existing federal and state hate crime laws — and expand training for judges, prosecutors and law enforcement officials on alternative sentencing and restorative justice initiatives.
  • Provide equitable access to government funds for security infrastructure to houses of worship and community institutions targeted with violence, including historically Black colleges and universities and LGBTQ+ centers.
  • Provide increased funding for civics education, digital and media literacy initiatives, conflict resolution programs and initiatives to reduce structural racism.
  • Address white supremacy in the military at every stage: screening recruits; clarifying prohibitions against advocating for, or involvement in, supremacist or extremist activity for active-duty personnel; and tailored efforts for veterans to transition to civilian life, including counseling, mental health and social welfare services.
  • Protect voters and prevent political violence by issuing guidance promoting best practices, publicly tracking threats to elections officials and infrastructure, and limiting guns at polling places.
  • Prevent the hiring, promotion or retention of law enforcement officials who actively promote unlawful violence, white supremacy or other biased policing — and mandate an annual report on these actions.
  • Promote inclusive education and democracy-building school initiatives that celebrate our nation’s diversity.
  • Promote online safety and hold tech and social media companies accountable.
  • Demand that social media companies not enable the funding or amplifying of white supremacist ideas or provide a haven for extremists.