Remove officers with known hate group affiliations or a record of explicit bias from US police departments and create robust state level legislation or department policy to preclude officers with these affiliations or histories from joining the force or being retained.
While state level legislation that creates uniform policy and expectations for all officers is ideal, there are many steps that departments can take to create a culture of respect and root out individuals with explicit biases from their ranks.
Department leadership should:
- Identify active hate groups in their regions by consulting hate group databases;
- Familiarize themselves with markers and symbols of local hate groups and crowdsource information about these groups from the community;
- Avoid imagery glorifying violence in recruitment materials;
- Create recruitment materials that underscore community service and positive community relationships;
- Analyze criminal and professional misconduct histories when evaluating job candidates, including prior complaints, investigations, and a candidate’s reason for leaving prior employers;
- Thoroughly investigate all job candidate’s social media accounts for discriminatory jokes, statements, gestures, imagery, or symbols;
- Require job candidates to disclose any relationships that would make contact with prohibited hate groups unavoidable (e.g., a household member is affiliated with a hate group);
- Create a Code of Conduct prohibiting any act or conduct that:
- Is affiliated with any hate group;
- Brings the department into disrepute;
- Discredits the individual as an officer;
- Hinders the effective and efficient operation of the department;
- Disrupts the harmony or working relationships within the department.
- Create collective bargaining agreements that provide department management and the municipality with the explicit right to discipline officers for conduct that violates policies and procedures outlined in the Code of Conduct;
- Consistently affirm department’s commitment to anti-discrimination practices both verbally and in writing;
- Conduct department-wide training on anti-discrimination policies and procedures;
- Conduct regular evaluations of all department staff (including social media accounts) to ensure continued compliance with anti-discrimination policies and Code of Conduct;
- Create clear and accessible mechanisms for community members to file complaints against officers and for officers to anonymously report other colleagues for discriminatory behavior.
Interested in advancing police accountability legislation where you live?
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Frequently Asked Questions
1. Aren’t individual officers protected by their right to association to be involved with hate groups in their off duty time?
Courts have found that government agencies may place reasonable conditions on employment for public employees, including law enforcement officers, that limit their First Amendment rights, in recognition of the fact that certain individual affiliations may undermine effective governance. As such, courts have upheld the termination of police officers who were affiliated with hate groups despite claims by the dismissed officers that their right to association was violated. Similarly, courts have upheld as constitutional municipal regulations and department policies limiting officers’ right to free speech.