On social media, Richard Whitehead is a warrior for the American right. He has praised extremist groups. He has called for public executions of government officials he sees as disloyal to former President Trump. In 2020, he urged law enforcement officers to disobey COVID-19 public-health orders from “tyrannical governors,” adding: “We are on the brink of civil war.” Whitehead also trains police officers around the U.S., Reuters reports. The Idaho-based law enforcement consultant has taught at least 560 police officers and other public safety workers in 85 sessions in 12 states over the past four years. A Washington state training commission in 2015 temporarily banned Whitehead from advertising courses on its website because of instructional materials that referred to a turban-wearing police officer as a “towel head” and contained cartoons of women in bikinis.
Whitehead is part of a trend in pushing a radical-right political agenda to police forces. He’s one of five police trainers identified by Reuters whose political commentary on social media has echoed extremist opinions or who have public ties to far-right figures. They work for one or more of 35 training firms that advertised at least 10 police or public-safety training sessions in 2021. The five trainers have aired views including the belief in a vote-rigging conspiracy to unseat Trump in the 2020 election. One trainer attended Trump’s January 6, 2021, rally at the U.S. Capitol that evolved into a riot, injuring more than 100 police officers. Two of the trainers have falsely asserted that prominent Democrats including President Biden are pedophiles, a core tenet of the QAnon conspiracy theory. Four have endorsed or posted records of their past interactions with far-right extremist figures, including prominent “constitutional sheriff” leader David Clarke Jr. and Proud Boys leader Joe Biggs, who is being prosecuted for his involvement in the Capitol riots.