When he spoke to the white supremacist on the phone, Stallworth told him he hated niggers, Jews, Mexicans, spics, chinks and anyone else without pure Aryan blood in their veins. For good measure, he said his sister had recently been involved with a nigger, and every time he thought of him putting his filthy hands on her pure white body he got sick to his stomach. The unsuspecting KKK man was duly impressed, and when he wanted to meet, Stallworth had to send a white colleague in his place.

Stallworth grew up in the 1960s, often being called a nigger by white children and getting involved in fights to keep his self-respect. He wanted to be a high school PE officer, and the way to put himself through college was to become a cadet for the Colorado Springs Police Department. He was sworn in as a cadet on November 13, 1972.

His book is loosely written in parts and he doesn't explain how his ambition to be a teacher ended. Somewhere along the way he obviously changed his mind, and instead was sworn in as a police officer for the City of Colorado Springs on June 18, 1974, his 21st birthday. Whatever, he was the first black to graduate from the ranks of the Police Cadet program, making Colorado Springs history. The program had been running for four years, specifically to boost minority recruitment, but so far had hired only one Puerto Rican and two Mexicans. All the rest were white.

By 1978, Stallworth had become the first black detective in the history of the Colorado Springs Police Department. Colorado Springs is a city of some 250,000 people, and Stallworth, working in the police Intelligence Unit and looking out for potential trouble, came across the KKK ad and contacted their box number, expecting to receive a few brochures in the mail.

Instead, he was phoned and asked if he wanted to join the white supremacist organisation that was formed after the American Civil War and wants full segregation between blacks and whites, otherwise there will be a race war. In 1978, the KKK was on the rise agin in the United States, with its Grand Wizard, the smooth-talking, besuited David Duke, appearing on talk shows and giving major magazine interviews.

Duke presented a "kinder" Klan, pursuing a strategy of presenting it as a political party rather than the traditionally held image of them as a bunch of ignorant, pot-bellied, beer-drinking, tobacco-chewing good ole southern boys, who previously lynched "strange fruit" from Southern poplar trees. The "Wizard" is a true Jekyll and Hyde, presentable in public but a monster when in private or in his hooded robes, Stallworth recounts.

Stallworth recruited his colleague Chuck to be the white Ron Stallworth in the flesh at meetings with the Klan, while Stallworth himself conducted the phone conversations and pulled the strings in the background. To the reader, he often delights in the idiocy and gullibility of the extremists, who didn't spot that the man on the phone had the voice of a black man, even though Duke boasted that this was something he could easily do.

After one phone call, the cops all laughed about an organisation that got an idea how to light a cross from a James Bond film and bragged about secret handshakes. It was as if Dennis the Menace were running a hate group.

So, the undercover sting was up and running, and this book is an enthralling read. The police wanted to gain knowledge and information with the ultimate conclusion of multiple criminal charges. Stallworth found himself in a position to sabotage cross burnings and expose white supremacists in the military. He tipped off other police departments about forthcoming KKK events.

The Colorado Springs local chapter turned out to have only 24/25 members, most of them military personnel, but was still more powerful than Stallworth had known. They planned to expand membership, including in the Colorado State Penitentiary in Canon City. More worrying was the possibility of a union with Posse Comitatus, a significant right-wing ideological extremist group in Colorado.

Some Posse members were practising survivalists, active in the formation of armed civilian militias in the 1990s and preparing to survive in the anarchy of an anticipated breakdown of society. Like the KKK, they embraced anti-Semitic and white supremacist beliefs that the federal government was under the control of ZOG (Zionist Occupied Government), part of a Jewish conspiracy.

Posse extremists talked of firebombing"queer" bars and building cave houses in the mountains in preparation for a nuclear attack, for which they were stockpiling weapons and food. More prosaically, they offered a UDS 65 course on avoiding paying income tax, which they regarded as unconstitutional.

On the whole, these were gun-carrying, angry, dangerous men, and a marriage between the two groups would be a match made in hell for the citizens of Colorado Springs. Combined they would total about 50 members, preparing for a racial war.

An interesting aspect of Stallworth's memoir deals with entrapment. Undercover officers always have to be wary of this, which involves willfully deceiving a target into wrongdoing. For example, the police couldn't secretly organise a cross-burning themselves and then arrest the Klan participants for taking part. As undercover investigators, police can legitimately use various forms of deception to gain information or apprehend a suspect, but they cannot persuade an innocent person to commit a crime he or she was not predisposed to commit, nor can they coerce a suspect into doing so even if they are sure he or she is a criminal.

Indeed, Stallworth doesn't disclose any underhand dealings by the police at all, and perhaps justifiably so. By his account, it is all pretty much squeaky clean on the part of the officers, except for the occasional clash of personalities. Who are we to say this is unlikely to be so, but perhaps you do have to wonder.

Stallworth's compelling account of his journey into the nether regions of the upstanding, freedom-loving, all-democratic Land of Opportunity was first published in July 2018, but received fresh impetus in February this year when director Spike Lee's film version won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.

We digress, but In our view it's a bullshit film that takes the usual Hollywood liberties with the source material. A bomb! Exploding cars! Women characters, incidents and dialogue that didn't exist in the book have been added, for our increased enjoyment, of course, because we need more and more fireballs and thrills to keep us satisfied.

Definitely read the book first.


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