Law enforcement trainer Richard Whitehead has publicly espoused far-right extremist views and, in the classroom, has drawn complaints of using offensive language and content targeting women, Muslims and transgender people. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart
One police instructor who has taught 560 officers in recent years has joined one extremist group and supported other far-right movements. Others have echoed QAnon and other fringe conspiracy theories on social media, a Reuters examination found.
On social media, Richard Whitehead is a warrior for the American right. He has praised extremist groups. He has called for public executions of government officials he sees as disloyal to former President Donald Trump. In a post in 2020, he urged law enforcement officers to disobey COVID-19 public-health orders from “tyrannical governors,” adding: “We are on the brink of civil war.”
Whitehead also has a day job. He trains police officers around the United States.
Keepers, a far-right anti-government group, that was leaked in September by the nonprofit Distributed Denial of Secrets, which says it aims to publish data in the public interest. The members list included some 15 other people who identified themselves as law enforcement trainers and dozens more who said they were retired officers or trainers, or firearms instructors, according to a Reuters review of the data. The anti-government militia group focuses on recruiting police and military personnel, according to some experts who track extremism, and claims to have thousands of members. Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes was charged with seditious conspiracy for his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riots. He has pleaded not guilty.
Whitehead is part of a trend in pushing a radical-right political agenda to American police forces. He’s one of five police trainers identified by Reuters whose political commentary on social media has echoed extremist opinions or who have public ties to far-right figures. They work for one or more of 35 training firms that advertised at least 10 police or public-safety training sessions in 2021, according to a Reuters analysis of scheduling data from policetraining.net, the main site where local departments connect with trainers. The news organization also reviewed materials describing classes by specific training companies.