Officers Down: Right-Wing Extremists Attacking Police At Growing Rate » ADL Blogs
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June 9, 2014 25

Officers Down: Right-Wing Extremists Attacking Police At Growing Rate

In Las Vegas on June 8, a man and a woman entered a local pizza restau­rant and shot and killed two Las Vegas Metro Police offi­cers, Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo, who were eat­ing lunch there. The shoot­ers then crossed the street to a Wal­mart, where they killed another per­son, then com­mit­ted suicide.officers-killed-domestic-extremists-1965-2014

Though, as of this writ­ing, the names of the sus­pects have not yet been released, details of the shoot­ings and sus­pects released by police or uncov­ered by jour­nal­ists strongly sug­gest the shoot­ings may be the work of right-wing extremists.

If so, the two offi­cers who lost their lives this past Sun­day are only the lat­est in a series of casu­al­ties in a de facto war being waged against police by right-wing extrem­ists, includ­ing both anti-government extrem­ists and white suprema­cists. Some extrem­ists have delib­er­ately tar­geted police, while oth­ers have responded vio­lently when meet­ing police in unplanned encoun­ters. The killings are not the effort of a con­certed cam­paign but rather a series of inde­pen­dent attacks and clashes stem­ming from right-wing ideologies.

In the 1960s and 1970s it was left-wing groups like the Black Lib­er­a­tion Army which tar­geted police for killing. How­ever, by the 1980s, right-wing extrem­ists began to sur­pass left-wing extrem­ists in caus­ing police deaths. The num­ber of offi­cers killed by right-wing extrem­ists more than dou­bled in the 1990s, then increased by 50% more in the first decade of the 2000s. Five offi­cers have been killed by right-wing extrem­ists since 2011, not count­ing the Las Vegas incident.

In the past five years alone, from 2009 through 2013, ADL has tracked 43 sep­a­rate vio­lent inci­dents between domes­tic extrem­ists (of all types) and law enforce­ment in the United States. These inci­dents include sit­u­a­tions in which shots are exchanged between police and extrem­ists (shootouts), sit­u­a­tions in which extrem­ists have fired at police but police sub­dued the extrem­ists with­out hav­ing to return fire, and sit­u­a­tions in which offi­cers had to use their firearms to pro­tect them­selves against extremists.

Of these 43 inci­dents, fully 39 of them involved extrem­ists sport­ing some sort of extreme right-wing ide­ol­ogy. White suprema­cists took part in 21 inci­dents, while anti-government extrem­ists were involved in 17 more. An anti-Muslim extrem­ist was involved in one inci­dent (the other four inci­dents included one with a left-wing extrem­ist and three with domes­tic Islamic extrem­ists). In these shoot­ing inci­dents, the extrem­ists shot 30 offi­cers, 14 fatally. Many other offi­cers sus­tained non-gunfire injuries dur­ing some of these encounters.shooting-incidents-2009-2013-by-ideology

Extreme ide­olo­gies cause right-wing rad­i­cals directly to attack offi­cers. Anti-government extrem­ist such as mili­tia groups and sov­er­eign cit­i­zens believe that police are agents of the ille­git­i­mate gov­ern­ment, while white suprema­cists believe that police are tools of the “Jewish-controlled” gov­ern­ment. The same ide­olo­gies some­times cause extrem­ists to act out vio­lently when they ran­domly encounter police in rou­tine situations.

More­over, because right-wing extrem­ists fre­quently engage in crim­i­nal activity—both ide­o­log­i­cal and non-ideological, police respond­ing to reports of crim­i­nal activ­ity may encounter extrem­ists com­mit­ting a crime or who are fugi­tives from jus­tice. Such sit­u­a­tions can also fre­quently turn deadly.

Unfor­tu­nately, rel­a­tively few offi­cer safety courses incor­po­rate infor­ma­tion about the dan­gers to police from domes­tic extremists.