Police chief Jeff Katz said that while Morley has a First Amendment right to free association, his affiliation with Identity Evropa made it impossible for him to perform his duties “in a way that would contribute to the building of trust” with the community he served.
According to The Root, Officer Morley worked in a school with a majority-minority population. 38% of students at L.C. Bird High School are black, 16% are Latinx, and 39% are white. As a school resource officer, day-to-day disciplinary decisions related to students increasingly were his purview. And as detention or suspension falls by the wayside in favor of arrests, it’s marginalized students — particularly the disabled and students of color — that are most effected.
For that reason, white nationalists in Morley’s position exacerbate existing institutional racism. But the picture is far more broad than one school resource officer in Virginia.
Last September, a Georgia police officer was put on leave while his ties to the Ku Klux Klan were investigated. In 2014, three Florida officers in one community were fired for their Klan ties. An Oklahoma police chief last year resigned when it was revealed he was a leader of neo-Nazi group Blood & Honour.
Police officers engaging in racist behavior creates distrust among communities of color, forcing some parents to warn their children at a very young age to be wary of law enforcement. In addition, this discriminatory behavior results in false conclusions based on race, including lawyers being accused of being defendants, and attacks on children who are perceived as threats. The public feeds this by calling police on people of color doing everyday things like gardening, barbecuing or not waving at them.
“Many people in these communities of color feel they have been the subject of police violence for decades,” said Samuel Jones, professor at the John Marshall School of Law in Chicago. “And when an officer engages in conduct that adds or enhances that divide, they are ultimately jeopardizing the integrity of their agencies and putting their fellow officers in danger.”
And though the issues with race and policing were brought into sharp focus after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in 2014, the FBI cautioned about white supremacists joining law enforcement all the way back in 2006.
In a heavily redacted bulletin, the FBI cautioned that white supremacist groups have historically engaged in strategic efforts to recruit from or join law enforcement agencies, and use their newfound access to benefit a wide array of white supremacist organizations by gathering intelligence or sabotaging investigations.
Though social media has made it easier to expose police with ties to white nationalism, its unclear how much the FBI has done directly to combat the problem. Notably, President Trump has downplayed the threat posed by growing white identity-based extremism, though the FBI continues to see it as a pervasive and persistent threat.
“There needs to more direct enforcement,” Jones said. “It’s one thing to issue a memo, and another to have continued action after it. There was a warning 10 years ago and nothing else since then.”
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.