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Police morale in Fruitland Park, Florida has been shaken after a deputy chief and officer resigned when the Federal Bureau of Investigations identified them as members of the Ku Klux Klan.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement presented Chief Terry Isaacs with copies of a confidential FBI report that identified Deputy Chief David Borst and Officer George Hunnewell as members of the KKK.
Earlier this year, a Florida Klan leader boasted to WFTV 9 that the organization has “police officers, paramedics, judges…everywhere.”
However, Chief Isaacs would only tell reporters for the Orlando Sentinel that the pair belonged to a “subversive organization” because he did not believe he was authorized to release the results of the report.
“It’s a tough situation. He was my assistant,” he said, adding that he never witnessed any behavior that would lead him to believe former Deputy Chief Borst was in the KKK. “But I’ve read the report, and it’s convincing.”
Chief Deputy State Attorney Ric Ridgway — from whom Isaacs sought counsel concerning the FBI’s report — told the Orlando Sentinel that “it’s not a crime to be a member of the KKK, even if you are the deputy chief. It’s not a crime to be stupid. It’s not a crime to hate people. It may be despicable, it may be immoral, but it’s not a crime.”
"The loss of two officers is significant for a town that only employs 13 full-time cops. They’re a good group of people,” Isaacs said. “The last thing I was expecting to hear in the year 2014 was for a professional law-enforcement officer to be a member of a subversive organization.”
In 2009, however, another Fruitland Park officer, James Elkins, resigned after pictures emerged online of him wearing a Klan hood and robe. Elkins initially claimed that he was not involved with the organization, but eventually admitted that he was the “district Kleage,” or local recruiter, for the National Aryan Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.
The Albuquerque Police Department, which has drawn criticism for its use of excessive force, plans to supply officers with hundreds of military-style weapons.
The department awarded a bid to a local vendor to purchase 350 AR-15 rifles over two years, reported KOB-TV, with the option of buying quantities of 50 thereafter, as needed.
The rifles cost about $1,000 each and will be purchased with taxpayer funds.
Civil liberties groups have warned in recent months about the growing militarization of U.S. police departments which have been buying surplus military equipment for civilian purposes.
Although the AR-15 is the civilian version of the military-grade M16 rifle, “you’re asking for trouble, in my opinion,” said Peter Simonson, executive director of the ACLU of New Mexico.
A U.S. Department of Justice report cited Albuquerque police in April for engaging in a “pattern and practice” of using excessive force, and Police Chief Gorden Eden told officers the following month they could no longer carry their personal weapons – including AR-15s – in the field.
The DOJ report found officers would purchase expensive weapons they viewed as “status symbols.”
“I think it sends a contradictory message to the public, and I think it should raise concerns about how seriously they’re actually taking the DOJ reforms,” Simonson said.
A spokeswoman for the police chief said the weapons were “ordered as replacements for officers’ authorized personally-owned rifles” and did “not represent an increase in the number of rifles carried by APD officers.”
“The replacement rifles are the standard type of rifle used commonly by police departments throughout the United States and may be purchased by any person at a commercial retailer,” said spokeswoman Janet Blair.
The president of the Albuquerque police union disagreed that the weapons would militarize the department.
Union President Stephanie Lopez said about 320 Albuquerque police officers had paid for their own training to shoot rifles and requested the department pay to buy the guns after they were told to leave their own at home.
“That training shouldn’t go to waste,” Lopez said. “There is a need to have these weapons on the street and within the department.”
The union president cited the October shooting rampage led by suspect Christopher Chase, who was dressed in body armor and targeted officers during a lengthy pursuit through the city.
Chase was shot to death buy officers with weapons similar to AR-15s, she said, adding that standard-issue handguns and shotguns would not have been effective.
Officers also used AR-15 rifles to shoot and kill ”illegal” camper James Boyd in March.
Watch this video report posted online by KOB-TV