A November 2021 report by The Progressive revealed that Brian P. Haughton, a former member of multiple racist skinhead bands and a past leader in the neo-Nazi movement, now holds an important counterterrorism position in the Department of Justice. Haughton serves as a law enforcement coordinator for domestic counterterrorism in the Middle Atlantic Great Lakes Organized Crime Law Enforcement Network of the Department of Justice’s Regional Information Sharing Systems (RISS). Michael German, a Brennan Center fellow and former FBI agent who specialized in investigating neo-Nazis, told The Progressive that it is “highly unlikely” that RISS or similar federal employers could miss neo-Nazi ties if they had conducted any sort of pre-employment background check. As The Progressive reported, this problem goes far beyond Haughton. Many other neo-Nazis and white supremacists likely hold powerful positions in law enforcement agencies, especially since neo-Nazi leaders such as Mark Thomas encouraged young recruits to blend into mainstream society and to take jobs in the police or military.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Haughton played drums with the Arresting Officers, one of the most influential neo-Nazi bands of the time, which was named for the belief that arresting officers had the best jobs since they could assault people of color. He also played for Break the Sword, another neo-Nazi punk band around the same time. Beyond music, Haughton had connections to members of the Aryan Republican Army, a neo-Nazi gang that robbed twenty-two Midwest banks in the mid-1990s and is suspected of having helped to fund the Oklahoma City Bombings. Haughton’s direct connections to the neo-Nazi skinhead scene appear to have ended around January 1995, when he joined the Philadelphia Police Department, where he worked until December 2017.
Of course, Haughton could have changed since his days as a neo-Nazi, but Frank Meeink, a former neo-Nazi leader who knew Haughton and who now conducts hate crime trainings for police agencies, explained, “I’m sure he still has these beliefs. You don’t join the cops being racist and then get un-racist being a cop.”
Georgetown law professor Vida Johnson told The Progressive that police departments are overwhelmingly conservative and white, with a consequence that job applicants are often given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their racist and bigoted pasts. Johnson described this as “a persistent problem” in policing. “Police underestimate white people as threats,” Johnson told The Progressive. German, the Brennan Center fellow and former FBI agent, expanded on these points, observing that a white supremacist “couldn’t prosper in law enforcement agencies if the prosecutors didn’t go along with it, if the judges didn’t go along with it, if the government didn’t go along with it.”
White supremacists’ presence in law enforcement agencies has long been recognized by the FBI. In 2006 the Bureau reported that white supremacists were getting jobs as police officers in order to access intelligence and weapons training. And, in 2015, the FBI reported evidence of “active links” between white supremacists and law enforcement officials. Aside from instituting processes aimed at preventing police officers from searching for themselves in the RISS system, agencies such as RISS denied the problem. Even in the months before the January 6 domestic terrorist incident, the FBI ignored continued efforts by white supremacists to recruit police officers. In October 2021, NPR reported that more than eighty people charged in connection with January 6 had connections to the military or law enforcement.
No corporate outlets have reported on this story as of April 20, 2022.
Source: Helen Christophi, “The Lone Wolf in the Henhouse,” The Progressive, November 18, 2021.
Student Researcher: Annie Koruga (Ohlone College)
Faculty Evaluator: Mickey Huff (Diablo Valley College)