In a day when outlandish theorizing (hello, TV talk shows) often is followed by the shrug-of-the-shoulders disclaimer “just asking,” you hesitate to ask a question that involves prospective accusations.
But there’s probable cause for asking this one: How alone in his white supremacist ideas and connections was the retired Boise police officer whose national connections recently were unveiled?
The direct linkage is to a pro-white nationalist group called the New Century Foundation, which the Southern Poverty Law Center described as a self-styled think tank that promotes pseudo-scientific studies and research that purport to show the inferiority of blacks to whites.” It has several projects under the name of American Renaissance, including a magazine and a conference earlier this month.
One of the speakers went under the name Daniel Vinyard, but his real name is Matthew Bryngelson, a recent retiree from the Boise Police Department. He worked in law enforcement more than two decades and at his retirement held the rank of captain.
He spoke about what it was like to work as a white police officer (not good, in his telling). And, as the Idaho Statesman at Boise reported, “The 24-year veteran of the Boise Police Department appears to have authored posts linking Black people, Hispanic people and refugees to crime under a pseudonym while serving as the captain of the patrol division.”
There was plenty of community reaction, not least from Mayor Lauren McLean, who said she was launching an investigation. There was more, from former Ada County Sheriff Gary Raney, the local police union and the Treasure Valley Fraternal Order of Police; the latter said, “Bryngelson’s thoughts, beliefs, and actions are unbecoming of a law enforcement officer of any rank and they are devastating to our membership and our community relationships.”
The most pertinent comment may have come from Phillip Thompson, executive director of the Idaho Black History Museum, who said “This is kind of like a painful gut check. Not only are they all there, but they’re going to move covertly and surreptitiously and work their way up the ranks … still holding those beliefs.”
The plural is the key here. Bryngelson alone would be not such a big deal; among other things, he’s retired now. But the fact that he served in the city’s police force as long as he did, and rose in it as high as he did, raises serious questions about to what extent he was representative of at least a significant portion of the force. It’s hard to imagine he was completely alone.
This is not a purely local matter.
This spring, the wire service Reuters reported on a mass of research (and broke some of it) showing “the pervasiveness of white supremacy in U.S. law enforcement, and a continuing series of incidents documenting the presence of extremist groups and views among law enforcement. More and more, the evidence suggests the “white supremacist infiltration of law enforcement” that the FBI warned about back in 2006 is getting worse.”
Idaho generally has a significant problem with white supremacist activity, and you have to suspect that some of this has filtered over into law enforcement – one of the areas where we can least afford it.
The Boise Police Department has said the right things and made the right policy statements, as in its recent release that, “In light of recent revelations concerning a former member of BPD Command Staff, the Boise Police Department unequivocally states there is no room for racist ideologies, hatred, bigotry, or behaviors among members of the Boise Police Department, and we publicly condemn such in the strongest possible terms.”
But it’ll take more to ensure that goal is lived up to. The mayor’s announced inquiry can help – provided it’s a first step, and not the last. We have some questions that need answers.
Share on Facebook