The U.S. Capitol Police force continues to be rocked by scandal, though none of it will likely come close to “was so woefully unprepared for gathering of violent fascists demanding the nullification of an election that it led to multiple deaths and nearly to the assassination of a U.S. vice president.” Even as an investigation into multiple officers for their apparent efforts to assist invading far-right insurrectionists on Jan. 6 continues, now an officer has been suspended while the department investigates why a well-worn copy of one of the most famous anti-Semitic tracts in history was lying in plain view at the Capitol security checkpoint he was manning.

The literature in question was the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, an infamous work of racist fiction supposedly uncovering a worldwide conspiracy by Jews to control the world. It was discovered and photographed by congressional staffer Zach Fisch, who is Jewish, inside the Longworth House Office Building on Sunday. The pamphlet has been a longtime staple of American neo-Nazi and other anti-Semitic groups, and many of its claims about supposed child-eating world elites have now been repurposed to serve as the conspiratorial base for the far-right “QAnon” movement. Fisch reported that the printed version he saw was “tattered” and “over two years old,” raising obvious questions about how long it had been circulating inside government offices before it was discovered.

An investigation is ongoing, and there may yet be some explanation that exonerates the officer in question. It is possible that a neo-Nazi visitor “accidentally” brought the printout into the building and abandoned it. It is possible that a House Republican staffer was thumbing through it as light reading, but dropped it. It is possible that land sharks consumed a stray Proud Boy during the Jan. 6 insurrection and only just now pooped out the undigestible bits. We don’t know. We weren’t there.

Casually leaving one of the most infamous anti-Semitic propaganda screeds ever produced sitting out in plain view on a Longworth security desk is, however, a boneheaded move even if the land shark explanation turns out to be the true one. It’s not okay.

Innocent explanations, however, appear unlikely. On Monday, Rep. Ritchie Torres reported seeing another Capitol Police officer watching One America News Network (OANN), the pro-Trump far-right conspiracy-peddling outlet that heavily promoted the blatantly fraudulent election claims used by insurrectionists to justify their Jan. 6 assault. The paired events caused fellow New York congressman Jamaal Bowman to again demand an investigation of any “connections between Capitol Police and white supremacist groups.”

It is absolutely assured that any such investigation will find such ties. Law enforcement is filled with racists and far-right extremists, both as culture and for the simple reason that anyone looking to make a career out of violence and racism is going to gravitate toward law enforcement as the most obvious outlet for their perversions. A Texas FBI office produced a confidential intelligence assessment warning that white supremacists and other far-right extremists were “very likely” to seek “affiliation with military and law enforcement” to further their ideologies and “gain access” to nonpublic information.

Dozens of active and retired law enforcement officials were among those who participated in the violent insurrection, police departments around the country have turned a blind eye to far-right violence for years, and investigators are probing whether Jan. 6 insurrectionists had the active support of law enforcement and coordinated with them in executing the Capitol attack.

That the omnipresence of violent extremists within law enforcement ranks represents a real danger to democracy should now be self-evident. Subscribing to crackpot theories claiming Joe Biden is not the legitimate president is incompatible with protecting lawmakers or, for that matter, anyone else. Believing pre-Holocaust propaganda about the supposed powers of “the Jews” is positive proof that someone lacks the judgment to be a law enforcement officer or to work for government in any other capacity.

A far-right coup came very close to assassinating top U.S. leaders last January, due in large part to either the outrageous incompetence of multiple government institutions or willing complicity by some government leaders. The cleanup efforts here will have to be extraordinary, and purging each department of extremism within its ranks is an absolute necessity.

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