A deputy police chief and a fellow officer, both members of the Fruitland Park (Fla.) Police Department, are no longer employed as law enforcment officers after an FBI report accused them of being members of the Ku Klux Klan.
USA Today reported July 14 that Fruitland Park Police Chief Terry Isaacs, acting on information provided him by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), accepted the resignation of Deputy Chief David Borst on Thursday and fired Officer George Hunnewell on Friday. Borst, who also held the position of fire chief, resigned that position as well. He denied having any involvement with the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), even after being confronted with the FBI's report.
Chief Deputy State Attorney Ric Ridgway, who Isaacs reached out to for advice on the matter, told the Orlando Sentinel that "a lot of fairly substantial evidence that tends to support" that both Borst and Hunnewell were members in the notorious hate group.
Ridgway pointed out that there is nothing illegal about belonging to the KKK "even if you are the deputy chief." He added, "It's not a crime to hate people. It may be despicable, it may be immoral, but it's not a crime."
The Ku Klux Klan was a Christian-based, white supremacist group that rose out of the ashes of the post-Civil War Reconstruction South as preservers of the "southern way of life." They became famous for their terrorist, sometimes deadly, tactics against blacks and Jews, not to mention their signature white conical hoods and robes, silent parades and cross burnings. Their popularity peaked in the 1920s, when it is estimated that there were as many as 5 million members. But according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups throughout the United States, the total membership of the KKK nationwide is now somewhere between 5,000 and 8,000.
The FDLE gave Chief Isaacs a summary of an FBI report that was based on information provided by a confidential informant. According to the Associated Press (via Yahoo News), the Fruitland Park connection came as part of a larger investigation, but city officials had no knowledge of the report's content or the scope and direction of the FBI's probe. When the Associated Press questioned the FDLE about the report, spokewoman Gretl Plessinger said the report was "active intelligence" and she could not say what was actually in it.
Even though the two police officers were shown to be connected to the KKK, the FBI could find no illegal activities committed by the pair.
Still, Fruitland Park city officials have to make decisions on whether or not Borst and Hunnewell the city's code of standards and ethics. At the same time, Police Chief Isaacs noted that the state attorney's office now had to review all arrests made by the nowed disgraced officers. Extra attention will be given to cases involving blacks and other minorities.
Unfortunately, this is not the first incident involving the Fruitland Park Police Department and connections to the KKK. Another officer, James Elkins, resigned in 2009 when photographs surfaced of him wearing KKK regalia. Elkins later admitted to be a recruiter for a local chapter of the hate group.