Fired North Carolina cops are a reminder of how white supremacists have infiltrated law enforcement
Photo by Jacky Lam on Unsplash

Three officers were fired this week from the Wilmington, North Carolina police department after dash cam footage revealed horrifically racist conversations between them.

But before we delve into that, let's look at a brief timeline of select white supremacist incidents in police departments across the U.S.—and the FBI warning that came in the middle of them—to add some context to this story.

In 1991, a group of Los Angeles sheriff's deputies were discovered to be part of a "neo-Nazi, white supremacist gang" known as The Vikings—membership that department officials knew about and did nothing to address.

In 1999, an unknown number of officers in three different Cleveland, Ohio police districts were found to have scrawled racist or Nazi graffiti throughout police quarters, including restrooms and locker rooms.

In 2001, two officers in Williamson County, Texas were fired after they were discovered to be members of the Ku Klux Klan.

In 2006, the FBI detailed the specific threat of white supremacists purposefully infiltrating police departments. Though largely (and frustratingly) redacted, an intelligence bulletin describes how white nationalists and skinheads try to blend into police departments by hiding their true beliefs (a practice known as "ghost skinning") with the purpose of disrupting investigations into supremacist groups and recruiting other white supremacists.


Moving right along, in 2014, a Florida deputy police chief and another officer were fired after an FBI informant outed them as members of the Ku Klux Klan.

In 2015, a ProPublica article describing copious racist messages in a New York cop blog also pointed to other racist incidents around the same time in various U.S. cities' police departments.

And now, here we are in 2020, watching three Wilmington, North Carolina officers lose their jobs after accidentally recording their blatantly racist and violent conversations.

This is by no means a full list, and North Carolina incident is by no means any less egregious than those that preceded it. In a routine review of dash cam footage, former officer Kevin Piner was heard talking to another officer about the protests for racial justice. He said the police department was only concerned with "kneeling down with the black folks." He called a Black officer in his department "bad news" and a "piece of shit," saying, "Let's see how his boys take care of him when shit gets rough, see if they don't put a bullet in his head."

In a conversation with another officer later in the day, Piner called a woman he arrested the day before a "negro" and "n----r." He referred to a Black magistrate judge as "fucking negro magistrate," saying, "She needed a bullet in her head right then and move on. Let's move the body out of the way and keep going."

As if that weren't bad enough, the two officers talked about the possibility of a "civil war" coming, with Piner saying he was going to buy an assault rifle. "We are just gonna go out and start slaughtering them fucking ni—–. I can't wait. God, I can't wait," he said, followed by saying that such a war was needed to "wipe 'em off the fucking map. That'll put 'em back about four or five generations."

The full report of what was recorded can be found here.

And a news conference with the city council and the new Wilmington police chief, Donny Williams, who had to deal with this mess on his first day on the job:

There's a lot of talk about implicit racial bias—racial prejudices that we don't even know we have—in policing. While that's an important consideration, we can't overlook the fact that there are also actual white supremacists within some police departments. How many? No one knows. Those mentioned here are just some of the ones who have been caught and identified. But there have clearly been enough of them that the FBI felt the need to issue a bulletin about it and warn that it was a threat. And what was done with that information in that warning after it came out? Did police departments change the way they screen recruits or do a deep dive into their own ranks? Unclear.

No one is saying that all police officers are blatant white supremacists, obviously. But we've seen far too many stories of officers voicing white supremacist beliefs and far too many officers and officials turning the other way instead of outing them and ousting them.

In 2016, Samuel Jones, professor of law at Chicago's John Marshall School of Law, told PBS News Hour that neither the FBI or police departments had established systems for vetting people for white supremacist ties.

"I cannot imagine that the FBI today could issue a report concerning any kind of threat without people being alarmed and wanting immediate action," he said. "But in this case there seems to be almost an acceptance of it. The thought is 'it's just ideology and they have a right to believe this.'"

The problem is "just ideology" isn't a small thing when we're talking about people with the means, power, and authority to take people's lives. A police officer cannot serve and protect the public if they believe that a large percentage of the public isn't worth serving or protecting. No matter what our personal beliefs are about policing, we should at least all be able to agree on that.


Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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The battle between millennials and older generations isn't exactly a generational war—it's more a case of mistaken generational identity. A decade ago, whining about millennials being young adults unprepared to make their way in the world at least made sense mathematically. But when people bag on millennials now they end up looking rather foolish.

A marketing researcher with a doctorate in social psychology wrote an op-ed for the Chicago Tribune titled "Post-pandemic, some millennials finally decide to start #adulting." And when the Tribune shared it to Twitter, their since-deleted tweet read, "Writer Jennifer Rosner predicts COVID-10 lockdowns will force easy-breezy millennials to grow up."

Hoo boy.

Interestingly, the writer of the op-ed is a millennial herself, but she repeats generalizations about her entire generation that seem like they mainly apply to her own social circle. Read it yourself to decide, but regardless, the tweet of the op-ed itself set off a firestorm of responses from millennials who are tired of being painted as irresponsible young people who don't know how to "adult" instead of what they actually are.

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2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.