Q&A with retired federal LEO on police and race

matthew fogg

Matthew Fogg, former U.S. marshal and DEA agent currently running for Congress in Maryland.

President Barack Obama is expected to deliver remarks Tuesday at an interfaith memorial service to honor the officers killed in an ambush-style attack in Dallas last week.

The shooter, a black man, killed five officers and wounded several others before a standoff took place. The man told a police negotiator he was upset about two recent shootings of black people and that he wanted to kill “white officers.”

To get a better understand of the motivations behind the killer’s deadly actions and the anger felt in the black community, Guns.com reached out to Matthew Fogg, a former U.S. Marshal and DEA agent currently running for Congress in Maryland. Fogg is also black.   

In addition to making five high-profile “most wanted” arrests, Fogg commanded the U.S. Marshal Service foreign fugitive operations and was a highly trained member of the USMS SWAT Team, where he received specialized training in various weapons, improvised explosive devices, dive rescue and paratrooper jump school. Fogg is also the national vice president for Blacks In Government and a former national board member for Amnesty International.

Guns.com: If the Dallas shooting was out of anger for the police shootings [last] week, what do you think it means for race relations in this country and for relations between police and the black community.

Fogg: First let me start by stating, it is tragic whenever innocent citizens or police are killed on the streets of America or in the line of duty, respectively. My heart felt condolences go out the families of the brave officers who lost their lives and to the loved ones of the civilians who were killed by the police. As for race relations in America I believe and sadly to say, “the chickens are coming home to roost.” I retired after 32 years in federal law enforcement and worked with most major police departments across America in various federal state and municipal drug, gun and fugitive task forces. We deputized and federalized many non-federal officers to work with us in various cities and on these task forces. I experienced first hand the police culture of violence and the disproportionate targeting of black and brown citizens involving most law violations … knowing we would dare not operate in the same manner in white communities. It was disparate impact at its best and the Minnesota governor and U.S. president finally came out of denial and called a spade a spade (no pun intended) that statistics prove racism often drives police procedures.  

The relationship between police and black citizens has been super strained for my entire career and beyond indicative of why we have various national black police organizations as watch dog groups that have become ineffective due to black officers concerned about their own careers.

Furthermore, I’m the only federal law enforcement officer to take on the Federal Blue Wall of Silence and won a 1998 landmark ($4 million) federal jury verdict finding the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Marshals Service guilty of 13 of 14 counts of systemic racism in the rank and file. Many other civil rights retaliation charges he levied were never litigated in this trial for example, his white colleagues abandoned him on a “stake out” which, the suspects were heavily armed and attempted to kill/shoot him. The deserting Marshals were never held accountable.  

This same culture of indifference within the USMS and DOJ simply translated to how racially guilty officers dealt with the community and treated the citizens. I proved the culture was systemic both from within and outside of the agency.  

Guns.com: Does this culture clash have anything to do with the current political climate surrounding the presidential race, do you think?

Fogg: I believe the current political climate involving racism has remained the same for decades. Much of what we now see on video has been going on for a long time. President Obama was the first president to visit a prison and report the disparate impact of the U.S. and raise race and its disparate impact involving police relationships and black citizens. I do think that the current political campaigning has been forced to incorporate the concerns of black Americans by virtue of this and several high profile incidents that have occurred in the last few years again, only because of video cameras and images going viral on social media.   

Guns.com: What do you make of the other recent shootings of black people by police? 

Fogg: Both the St. Paul and Baton Rouge shootings are in part indicative of a police climate permeating throughout America for decades and since post-construction (after the Civil War). The video’s nearly speak for themselves much like the Rodney King beating did several decades ago and the more recent Baltimore incident (involving the death of Freddie Gray). I was a SWAT team member and worked the streets and had several moments in my career where I could have justifiably killed suspects. But I didn’t because I realized there was another way to handle the situation. Remember, we get paid to do our jobs and know from the beginning we are taking on a possible dangerous profession. Often no one is held accountable when officers are wrong, especially against black Americans and many have realized the criminal justice system and courts will not protect them against rogue cops. The public is willing to give bad cops a pass. 

Guns.com: Do you think systematic change is needed? If so, what can be done? 

Fogg: Absolutely. The few bad apples theory … states if police admit they have some bad apples amongst them, then the public doesn’t know which one is bad or good and who is stopping them. There needs to be a national database that captures every deadly encounter or shooting or serious bodily harm by police officers and capture every citizen’s complaint against an officer. We cannot let the police unions dictate how we should police. Citizens must be able to hold police accountable as a separate citizens review board with prosecutorial power. And finally, police officers must be vetted under a national system to determine suitability to work in the position. In others words it should no longer be a buddy-buddy local hiring system. Bigots beget bigots and often follow a family tradition of keeping it all in the family.