If anything positive has come from the siege at the U.S. Capitol, it might be this: Americans finally have received a glimpse of the warped mindset that apparently pervades our law enforcement. Robert Kuttner, of The American Prospect, calls it "The Plague of Fascist Cops." Writes Kuttner:
One of the ugliest secrets exposed by the assault on the Capitol is a fact long hidden in plain view—that local police departments are crawling with racists and fascist sympathizers. Numerous rioters were revealed to be off-duty cops.
Law enforcement was slow to defend the Capitol, mainly because Trump and his henchmen wanted the invasion to succeed and blocked reinforcements, but partly because many police were sympathizers.
A prominent police official in one of our largest cities revealed his feelings in a stunning interview:
The president of Chicago’s police union, John Catanzara, blurted out in an interview with WBEZ his support for the violent insurrection:
There was no arson, there was no burning of anything, there was no looting, there was very little destruction of property. It was a bunch of pissed-off people that feel an election was stolen …
I don’t have any doubt that something shady happened in this election. You’re not going to convince me that that many people voted for Joe Biden. Never for the rest of my life will you ever convince me of that.
Catanzara later walked back his comments and apologized, but does anyone doubt what he really believes?
Kuttner says it is time for federal intervention:
As countless efforts at failed police reform have made clear, most big-city police departments are beyond civilian control. As Harold Meyerson has reported in the Prospect, mayors are captive of police unions.
But the mayhem at the Capitol at last provides an opening for the federal government to crack down on racist rogue cops. Until Donald Trump shut it down, the Justice Department had a program, authorized ironically by the same lock-’em-up 1994 legislation that rightly outrages progressives, to have the Justice Department in effect take bad-actor police departments into receivership.
The need for federal involvement became apparent in Los Angeles:
The Rodney King beating of 1991 and the out-of-control L.A. Police Department was the stimulus for this program. At its peak, there were upwards of 15 police departments cleaning up their acts under reform programs monitored by the Justice Department and supervised by courts under consent decrees.
But 15 was a drop in a rotten bucket, and as the Prospect has reported, these programs produced mixed success at best. Meanwhile, police brutalization of young Black men only worsened, and people with openly fascist views found havens in local police departments.
The problem has been brewing for years, Kuttner reports, and now is the time to attack it:
For decades, according to Michael German, a former FBI agent who now works with the Brennan Center, the FBI has been warning about infiltration of local police by far-right militiamen and white supremacists. “Yet the justice department has no national strategy designed to protect the communities policed by these dangerously compromised law enforcers,” German writes.
Now, however, we have an opportunity to revive, repurpose, and dramatically expand the Department of Justice receivership program scrapped by Trump in 2017. The process is exactly parallel to the Justice Department takeover of racist local voting systems, which was the law between the original Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Shelby County Supreme Court decision of 2013 gutting federal monitoring and preclearance.
Just as we need to revive federal supervision of racist voting systems in order to guarantee basic voting rights, we need federal authority to protect the civil rights of local citizens against armed fascist thugs in blue.