A Connecticut police chief is defending one of his own amid concerns over the officer’s ties to the Proud Boys, a far-right extremist group known for espousing chauvinistic rhetoric and engaging in violent clashes at political rallies.
The group is also accused of propagating white nationalist sentiments, but East Hampton Police Chief Dennis Woessner said his officer’s membership with the organization doesn’t violate department policy, AP reported.
“There is no question that he is not a white supremacist,” Woessner said of Officer Kevin P. Wilcox, who reportedly quit the Proud Boys in February — months before the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law raised concerns about his apparent link to the group.
The Washington-based civil rights group inquired about the cop’s social media connections to members of the extremist organization, which pegs itself as a fraternal group of “Western chauvinists.” Earlier this years, the Lawyers’ Committee penned a letter to Woessner highlighting an incident in which Wilcox was accused of using excessive force against a suspect.
Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the civil right’s group, argued, “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 working relationships between the East Hampton Police Department and the community it serves.”
In a separate letter sent in September, the group call on Woessner to review any stops, arrests or investigations by Wilcox “to determine whether or not they were infected with racial bias,” according to AP.
The police chief did look into the matter, but shuttered the inquiry after receiving an “explanatory report” from Wilcox, which he said showed no evidence of a policy violation. He dismissed the claims, calling it “unfounded,” and stated in a Sept. 13 letter that Wilcox “adamantly denied being associated with white supremacists’ groups.”
Clarke wasn’t buying it, however, and voiced outrage at the police chief’s refusal to act.
“In an era where we are seeing a spike in white supremacist activity, this should sound an alarm,” she told the AP in an interview Tuesday. “It should not be business as usual.”
When asked what he knew about the extremist group, Woessner admitted only knew “what I searched on the internet.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center lists the organization as a “general hate” group whose disavowals of bigotry and the racist alt-right are belied by its affiliations with known white extremists. The organization, first launched by VICE Media co-founder Gavin McInnes, is known for espousing anti-Muslim sentiments and misogyny.
In 2017, a few members of the group marched alongside hundreds of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and Klansmen as they descended on Charlottesville, Virginia, for the deadly “Unite the Right” rally, according to the SPLC.
In February, McInnes slapped the civil rights organization with a lawsuit for labeling the Proud Boys as a hate group.