Toxic Masculinity and Far-Right Extremists in the Police

Image: Arizmirror.com

Far Right Extremists Training Police

In an article by David Neiwert, in Alternet :“Far-right extremists are not just within the ranks of police. They also work for firms that train them,” he says. “The saturation of the ranks of our police forces with far-right extremists is one of the harsh realities of American life that bubbled up during the police brutality protests of 2020 and was laid bare by the Jan. 6 insurrection. The presence of these extremists not only is a serious security and enforcement threat — particularly when it comes to dealing with far-right violence — but has created a toxic breach between our communities and the people they hire to protect and serve them. Too often, as in Portland, the resulting police culture has bred a hostility to their communities that expresses itself in biased enforcement and a stubborn unaccountability.”

“Much of this originates in police training, which are the foundations of cop culture. And a recent Reuters investigative report has found that police training in America is riddled with extremists: Their survey of police training firms — 35 in all — that provide training to American police authorities found five of them employ (and in some cases, are operated by) men whose politics are unmistakably of the far-right extremist variety. And these five people alone are responsible for training hundreds of American cops every year.”

The following is an excerpt from my book, Macho Men: How Toxic Masculinity Harms Us All And What To Do About It.

“Since the police academy, police officers are in contact with a hidden curriculum teaching hegemonic masculinity to novices. Physical displays of masculinity and bravery to face danger, is a central characteristic that defines the ‘macho’ police officer.” — Rafael Alcadipani, Pandemic and Macho Organizations.

Toxic masculinity is distinctively prevalent in police organizations in the U.S. This makes organizations an overwhelming masculine institution where the cult of masculinity is the defining characteristic of the police organizational culture.

Police occupational culture has been portrayed as essentially masculine with an emphasis on virility, toughness, masculinity, and masculine interests such as sexual triumphs, sports, outdoor life, assuming a taken-for-granted heterosexual masculinity in which homosexuality is perceived as perversion.

The cult of masculinity is performed in police story telling within the organization, making a natural feature the use of violence and force when facing “bad guys” and the need to prove the policeman’s masculinity.

These stories construct the (macho) heroic police identity. The use of physicality is perceived by police as the main tool they possess, rather than emotional intelligence or negotiation skills.

Moreover, there is the necessity to display “tough and forceful” behaviors, represented by an aggressive,competitive, and performance-driven leadership style.

Machismo, an exaggerated version of masculinity, has become a prominent feature of many police organizations.

Law Professor Frank Rudy Cooper explains in Who’s the Man? Masculinities Studies, Terry Stops, and Police Training: “Policemen have nearly unique powers to make othersacknowledge them as ‘the man’ while ostensibly merely performing their duties. The short answer is that officers may get ‘macho’ with civilians. Specifically, they may enact a command presence in situations where it only serves to boost the officer’s masculine esteem. To enact command presence is to take charge of a situation. It involves projecting an aura of confidence and decisiveness. It is justified by the need to control dangerous suspects. A situation that does not justify enacting command presence is what I call a ‘masculinity contest.’ A masculinity contest is a face-off between men whereone party can bolster his masculine esteem by dominating the other. A prototypical masculinity contest is a bar fight. Men will glare at each other and ratchet up their challenges until one party backs down or is subdued. Male police officers may sometimes be tempted to turn encounters with male civilians into masculinity contests.”

Using data from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in California, a 2008 study found that male officers were three times more likely to commit unwarranted shootings than female counterparts police officers.Additionally, white male police officers were 57% more likely than Latino male officers to commit such a shooting.

The culture of police departments has become hyper-masculine — a culture which glorifies violence. This has always been true but has developed in concert with the move away from community policing approach tomilitarization, aided by federal grants.

As Radley Balko writes in his 2013 Rise of the Warrior Cop, “much of it has to do with federal incentives fo rpolice departments to pursue this country’s endless failed war on drugs. Also, there is a thriving business industry of trainers and consultants who encourage police to see their work as a battlefield.”

Retired Army lieutenant colonel Dave Grossman is known for being one of America’s best-known independent police trainers — and one of the foremost exponents of the “warrior cop” mindset.

Another police training company, RealWorld Tactical’s training regimen reflects “warrior” culture that permeates American law enforcement. The warrior culture preaches that police work is inherently violent, and that officers represent the last opportunity for law and order in an increasingly dangerous society.

“They are taught that they live in an intensely hostile world. A world that is, quite literally, gunning for them,”writes Seth Stoughton, a law professor and former police officer, in an article for the Harvard Law Review.“Death, they are told, is constantly a single, small misstep away.”

A popular police training text put it this way: “Remain humble and compassionate; be professional and courteous — and have a plan to kill everyone you meet.” That plan is necessary, officers are told, “because everyone they meet may have a plan to kill them.”

Stoughton describes a common teaching scenario in which a suspect leaning into a car can pull out a gun and shoot at officers before they can react. Another exercise teaches that even when an officer is pointing a gun at a suspect whose back is turned, officer should be prepared to fire first when the suspect spins around.

There are countless variations, but the lessons are the same, Stoughton says: “Hesitation can be fatal. So, officers are trained to shoot before a threat is fully realized, to not wait until the last minute because the last minute may be too late.” But what about the consequences of a mistake? After all, that dark object in the suspect’s hands could be a wallet, not a gun.

But officers are taught that the risks of mistakes are less — far less — than the risks of hesitation. A common phrase among police: “Better to be judged by twelve than carried by six.”

White Supremacists’ and Extremists’ Infiltration of Police Forces

An FBI report has expressed alarm about the infiltration of police forces by white supremacist groups and its impact on police abuse and tolerance of racism, the unredacted version of a previously circulated document reveals.

An important FBI threat assessment report was released by Congressional Representative Jamie Raskin, chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform’s Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Subcommittee, prior to a Congressional hearing about the white supremacist infiltration of local police departments.

The report states that as early as 2006, about “self-initiated efforts by individuals, particularly among those already within law enforcement ranks, to volunteer their professional resources to white supremacist causes with which they sympathize.”

“Having personnel within law enforcement agencies has historically been and will continue to be a desired asset for white supremacist groups seeking to anticipate law enforcement interest in and actions against them,” the report notes in a section that was previously redacted. Another previously redacted section warned of “factors that might generate sympathies among existing law enforcement personnel and cause them to volunteer their support to white supremacist causes,” which could include hostility toward developments in U.S. domestic and foreign policies “that conflict with white supremacist ideologies.”

The warrior narrative for police forces has been fed by the flood of funding and surplus military equipment made available to police departments following the terror attacks on September 11, 2001.

Over the last three decades, the militarization of police forces in America has grown exponentially. The result of this militarization is that the local police take on the appearance, armament, and behavior of soldiers at war — with the public.

And those who encounter militarized police, whether in their daily lives or at a demonstration, are far more likely to end up dead or injured because of an officer’s militarized mindset.

The Pentagon’s 1033 program allows police forces to purchase Department of Defense technology, — a startling amount of heavy- duty, military-grade hardware. Between 1998 and 2014, the dollar value of military hardware sent to police departments increase incredibly from $9.4 million to a startling $796.8 million.

It’s unlikely that meaningful police reform will occur in the U.S. until the issue of toxic masculinity imbedded in the police warrior culture and the corrupting influence of far-right extremists are addressed.

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Ray Williams

Author/Retired Executive Coach-Helping People Live Better Lives and Serve Others