The Cops at the Capitol
Law enforcement officers from around the country attended and supported last week’s rally in support of President Trump that sparked a riot.
As of today, at least 26 sworn members of U.S. law enforcement agencies from at least 11 states have been identified by law enforcement agencies and local reporting as attendees of the Jan. 6 rally in support of President Trump that sparked a riot at the U.S. Capitol. [Update, Jan. 20, 2:45 p.m., Eastern time: One more law enforcement official has been reported as having attended the rally, bringing the total to 35 individuals from 16 states.] Beyond that tally, several former law enforcement agents attended the rally, and still more current law enforcement officials are under investigation for making statements in support of the rally.
A review of police attendance and support appears below and is also available in this spreadsheet,* which will be updated as more information becomes available. These specific law enforcement agents have not been tied to white supremacist movements.
And yet, it would be inaccurate to say that white supremacists have merely “infiltrated” law enforcement, a word used in a recent hearing on white supremacy and policing in the U.S. House Oversight and Reform subcommittee. American policing is rooted in white supremacy: many contemporary police departments originated as patrols dedicated to terrorizing and capturing enslaved people. Other antecedents of modern policing extend farther back in history to the ”oversight” of Native peoples. The main function of policing is to protect the interests of the ruling classes, and in the context of a society built on racial capitalism, that means the crosshairs of police officers focus on non-white communities. With this history in mind, the fact that police flocked from all over the country to attend the Trump rally merely shows how white supremacy is embedded in the very function of policing itself.
David Ellis, the police chief in Troy, New Hampshire, attended the rally, but told a New York Magazine reporter that while he condemned the assault on the Capitol, “there’s a lot of Trump supporters that are awesome people, like me.”
The Bexar County sheriff’s office in Texas is investigating Lieutenant Roxanne Mathai’s attendance. She posted a photo of rioters on the Capitol’s balcony after they’d made it past the police, writing as the caption, “and we are going in… in the crowd at the stairs… not inside the capitol like the others. Not catching a case lol.” Mathai typically has 70 to 80 employees under her command.
The Zelienople Borough Police Department (near Pittsburgh) is investigating Officer Thomas Goldie’s attendance. One photo shows him wearing a hat that appeared to say, “Trump MAGA 2020 f— your feelings.”
Sheriff Chris West of Canadian County, Oklahoma, attended the Trump rally. West denied breaking any laws, but two posts from a deleted Facebook account that appeared to belong to West read, “I’m okay with using whatever means necessary to preserve America and save FREEDOM & LIBERTY… I want several in Congress… in prison, or worse.”
The New York Times reported that a man named Jeff told a reporter that he was an off-duty police officer in York County, Pennsylvania. “There’s a lot of people here willing to take orders,” he said. “If the orders are given, the people will rise up.” The York Dispatch is working to confirm this report with local police departments.
The Seattle Police Department has placed two officers who attended the rally on administrative leave.
The Franklin County sheriff’s office in Kentucky reassigned detective Jeff Farmer after he attended the rally. Farmer has denied participating in the riot or in any violence. Local public defenders wrote a letter to Sheriff Chris Quire alleging that Farmer has made multiple social media posts expressing “disbelief in systemic racism and unconscious bias,” that he “resigned from the Versailles Police Department ‘in exchange for no further pursuit of criminal charges against him,’” and further that he “has been involved in many cases which reflect targeting and racial profiling.” Farmer was named Deputy of the Year in 2019.
Sergeant T.J. Robertson and Officer Jacob Fracker of Rocky Mount, Virginia, have been placed on administrative leave after photos emerged of them inside the Capitol. “There was no fighting with police officers,” Robertson said in reference to the Capitol police on Jan. 6. “The door was wide open and police officers were actually handing bottles of water out to people that came in.” In a Facebook post, however, Robertson wrote: “CNN and the Left are just mad because we actually attacked the government who is the problem and not some random small business … The right IN ONE DAY took the f——— U.S. Capitol. Keep poking us.”
Philadelphia police detective Jennifer Gugger has been reassigned pending an investigation into her attendance. Until last week, she served in the department’s Recruit Background Investigations Unit, and the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that “until recently, [her] Facebook profile photo was a reference to the QAnon conspiracy movement.”
The police force for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority, in Philadelphia, is also investigating seven officers who reportedly attended the Trump rally.
The New York Police Department said one police officer who attended is under investigation.
The Anne Arundel County Police Department, in Maryland, has suspended an officer with pay who reportedly attended.
The Charles County sheriff’s department, also in Maryland, is investigating the attendance of a corrections officer, who is presumably employed by the sheriff.
One Kentucky state trooper has been reassigned as the agency investigates his attendance.
Arkansas State Police told the Arkansas Times that two troopers requested leave time to attend the Trump rally.
According to Representative Tim Ryan of Ohio, two Capitol police officers were suspended and at least 10 others are being investigated regarding their behavior during the Trump riot. One of the two suspended officers wore a MAGA hat and “started directing people around the building”; the other posed for a selfie with a member of the mob. A House aide told CNN that “as many as 17 officers” with the Capitol police department are under investigation.
Several former law enforcement officers also attended the rally.
Jurell Snyder, who was a police officer in Oakland, California, gave an interview to CBS affiliate KPIX explaining his participation and his support of the rioters. “What do you think is worse,” he asked KPIX’s Joe Vazquez, “storming the Capitol with a flag or committing treason against your country?” During his tenure as a police officer, Snyder killed one person in 2007 and another in 2013. Several current Oakland police officers expressed support for Snyder’s radical views on Facebook, and the department is investigating its members’ potential support for radical far-right movements.
Butch Conway, former sheriff of Gwinnett County, Georgia, attended the Trump rally but denied participating in any illegal activity.
The watchdog group Documented reported that the Rule of Law Defense Fund—the 501(c)(4) arm of the Republican Attorney Generals Association—issued robocalls encouraging supporters to attend the Trump rally. Many officers who did not attend the rally expressed their support in statements or social media posts.
Notably, John Catanzara, president of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police, made several comments to NPR affiliate WBEZ echoing Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud. “They’re individuals,” he said. “They get to do what they want. Again, they were voicing frustration. They’re entitled to voice their frustration.”
In Arizona, Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb denied Trump’s responsibility for the violent white supremacist attack. At an event outside the state Capitol on Jan. 6, Lamb said, “I don’t know how loud we have to get before they have to listen to us and know we will no longer tolerate them stripping our freedoms away.”
One Secret Service officer is under investigation for making a Facebook post in support of the rally. “Good morning patriots! Yesterday started out beautiful and as usual Antifa soured the mood and attacked police and an Air Force veteran was murdered,” the post read. “It’s OFFENSE time finally!!” There is no evidence that anti-fascist activists were involved in the riot.
In Kansas, a lieutenant with the Sedgwick County sheriff’s office voiced his support on Facebook. “If you are a police officer in Washington, D.C., or a federal officer working in the Capitol, remember that the people in these rallies are on your side,” Jason Gill wrote. “Remember your oath before your orders.”
Sheriff Dallas Baldwin of Franklin County, Ohio, fired a civilian public information officer for writing a Facebook post that criticized Capitol police for failing to stop the Trump riot from breaching the building. “If this was a BLM protest, we’d be seeing tanks and mass casualties,” the PIO wrote. “White privilege at its worst.”
A complete list of law enforcement statements in support of the rally is available on this spreadsheet.
*Editor’s note: The author independently compiled the data herein and created the spreadsheet.