In 2009, W. Elkins was asked to resign from the Fruitland Park, Florida police department. Why? Because he was a high-ranking member and recruiter for the Ku Klux Klan. At the time of the investigation, the police chief guaranteed no other officers were KKK members.
But over the weekend in August of 2014, two more police officers were fired over their alleged membership in the same group Elkins belonged, the United Northern and Southern Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, in the overwhelmingly white former citrus town turned retirement community of Fruitland Park. The town had a history of racial violence in the 1940s and 1950s.
The current police chief, Isaacs, says both police officers charged – Deputy Chief David Borst and Officer George Hunnewell – “emphatically deny” being in the Klan.
When Isaacs took the job three years ago, there were 13 full-time police officers at his station. Today, only four of the original thirteen remain. “I either ran them off for disciplinary actions or they quit because they didn’t agree with the direction I wanted to go,” he said.
Isaacs says he’s been very tough when it comes to changing the culture in his department. He’s set very strict ethical guidelines and encourages diversity training for his officers. He says, “I don’t allow any joking, any comments. I’m very strict on that. I was somewhat shocked. I did not expect that in 2014.”
Until this weekend the office has never had any suggestion of further Klan connections and has never had a racial complaint since he’s been chief. The chief reported prosecutors are reviewing the two pending cases regarding the officers and will recommend dropping them ‘if they don’t stand on their own.’
Elkins says that at least four members of the department belonged to the Klan when he worked there five years ago and that “probably 10 out of the 12 fulltime officers were sympathetic to the Klan. He also said that he never used his gun or his badge to “subvert the government” or “for racial profiling or anything of that nature.”
When a photo surfaced of Elkins being sworn into the group while surrounded by other members in the symbolic white hoods of the Klan, he was fired for belonging to a subversive group. Although not illegal it is against the police department’s code of conduct.
Five years later Borst and Hunnewell find themselves in a similar position for their alleged actions. The county rules permit 10 days to appeal their dismissals, but Isaacs has not heard from either whether or not they plan to file an appeal.