Investigations into the January 6 Capitol riots have led to the nationwide arrests of participants, a significant number of whom are in the law enforcement and military community.
According to a report in USA Today, 43 out of the 324 arrests were of first responders or military veterans. At least four police officers and three former officers face federal charges.
The officers (two of whom were fired, one resigned, and another was suspended without pay) have each pleaded not-guilty and have yet to be arraigned.
The presence of law enforcement officers in the riot has alarmed lawmakers and officials, reigniting concerns about extremists infiltrating law enforcement ranks.
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) told USA Today, “A street alliance among right-wing paramilitary forces, law enforcement and demagogic politicians has been a hallmark of fascism for a century, so the involvement of multiple law enforcement officers from across the country in waging the Jan. 6th insurrection against the Capitol and the Congress is a warning sign of danger for our democracy. Off-duty cops beating up on-duty cops to overthrow an election is a nightmare scenario for America.”
Of those arrested in the riots, 16 were found to be linked to the Proud Boys alt-right group, 13 to the QAnon conspiracy movement and 12 to the Oath Keepers, a far-right anti-government paramilitary group that recruits former military and law enforcement members.
USA Today said that concern over extremist infiltration of law enforcement agencies has been around for years, citing a 2006 FBI report warning that white supremacists in law enforcement agencies could gain access to restricted places and sabotage elected officials or protected persons who they could see as “potential targets for violence.”
Raskin, who has investigated the infiltration of white supremacists in law enforcement as chairman of a House Oversight and Reform subcommittee, said, “Their presence in law enforcement impedes official responses to right-wing terrorism, places loyal officers in peril and exposes vulnerable communities to lawless violence by white supremacists dressed in blue.”
FBI Director Christopher Wray told the Senate Judiciary Committee that “the Capitol attack involved violent extremists” and that the FBI considered it “a form of domestic terrorism.”
Over the past three years, Wray has seen domestic terrorism cases double. He also alluded to the presence of sworn law enforcement officials in the riots.
“As we’re continuing to investigate the Jan. 6th attack, there have been some instances of current or particular former military or law enforcement who participated. We want to pursue those cases just as aggressively as we would anybody else,” Wray said.
Individuals who stormed the capitol were charged and arrested based on social media posts or photos and video taken that day. Among the law enforcement officers arrested are officers Thomas Robertson and Jacob Fracker from Rocky Mount, Virginia, 18-year veteran officer Tam Pham out of Houston, Joseph Fischer of North Cornwall Township, Pennsylvania, retired officer Thomas Webster from Queens, New York, and former SWAT team member and K-9 officer Laura Young Steele of North Carolina, who joined the Oath Keepers.
Investigations are ongoing in agencies across the country, looking at whether officers were in Washington that day or attended the protests.
Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority is investigating seven off-duty officers who attended the protests, and two sergeants were suspended without pay for social media posts that could be considered as supporting the rioters.
Seattle P.D. is also investigating six officers – two of whom were placed on administration leave for being in D.C. that day. Police Chief Adrian Diaz said officers would be fired if they were involved.
“We cannot violate the same laws we are sworn to protect,” he said. “We cannot allow violent or intimidating direct action to become acceptable in our society.”