A Connecticut police chief is under fire when it was revealed a member of his police force was apart of a far-right “white supremacist” group.
According to the Associated Press, the East Hampton officer, Kevin P. Wilcox, was a member of the Proud Boys, a group known for having violent clashes at political rallies. When civil rights groups brought up concerns to Police Chief Dennis Woessner he claims he did a department inquiry and concluded that Wilcox didn’t violate any department policies.
Woessner said that Wilcox “stopped his association” with the Proud Boys in February, around five months before the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law questioned his social media connections with other group members. In a letter to the Washington-based civil rights group, Woessner acknowledged that Wilcox was a member of the Proud Boys and made online payments to a leader of the group, which the civil rights group believed were monthly dues. Woessner then said he reviewed an “explanatory report” from Wilcox and closed the investigation. He wrote in a letter dated September 13 that Wilcox “adamantly denies being associated with white supremacists’ groups.”
This didn’t fly with the civil rights group’s president and executive director Kristen Clarke, however. She said she was “astounded” by the police chief’s refusal to reprimand the officer.
“In an era where we are seeing a spike in white supremacist activity, this should sound an alarm. It should not be business as usual,” Clarke said.
Wilcox has been an officer since 1999 and according to Woessner, he never had a complaint of racial bias made against him. The chief said that department records show that Wilcox only stopped white people between January 2018 and September 2019 in the mostly white town he patrols.
“There is no question that he is not a white supremacist,” Woessner argued.
However, in Clarke’s initial letter to Woessner, she noted that a federal jury in 2008 awarded more than $27,000 in damages to a guy who accused Wilcox and other East Hampton cops of using excessive force during an arrest.
The plaintiff, Alan P. Clark, said that Wilcox repeatedly hit him in the head with a metal flashlight while attempting to subdue him. Clark explained he needed about 14 staples to close his head wounds. Jurors backed Clark, saying Wilcox violated Clark’s constitutional right to be free from excessive force and concluded that the officer was liable for just over $11,000 in damages to Clark for his injuries. The two parties reached a confidential settlement less than two months after the trial, according to Clark’s attorney.
“Officer Wilcox’s association with white supremacists on public platforms, as well as his history of violence, risks interfering with your department’s operations by disrupting the working relationships between the East Hampton Police Department and the community it serves,” Clarke laid out in her July 24 letter to the chief.
The Proud Boys was started in 2016 by Vice Media co-founder Gavin McInnes. He described them as a politically incorrect men’s club for “Western chauvinists.” Back in February, McInnes sued the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center for deeming the Proud Boys a hate group.
The law center said Proud Boy members often espouse “outright bigotry” over the Internet and have posted social media photos of themselves with prominent Holocaust deniers, white nationalists and “known neo-Nazis.”
In October 2018, cops arrested several Proud Boys members who brawled with anti-fascist protestors following a speech by McInnes at a Manhattan Republican club. Proud Boys have also clashed with counter-protestors at rallies in Oregon and California.