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Neo-Nazi affiliation is hard to shake

Nobody asked me, but … if you pay dues to a neo-Nazi organization, subscribe to racist publications, buy tickets to a Holocaust denial conference and have a Holocaust denial DVD in your video collection, then you're probably a neo-Nazi.

That does not mean you are once and for all a neo-Nazi. You can have a change of heart and a change of mind, and come clean. If you want people to believe you are no longer a neo-Nazi, you have a lot of convincing to do. It takes a lot of work to shake the brown shirt.

But if you never disavow your affiliation with a neo-Nazi organization, if you never risk public shame and the loss of a job by coming out of the white-supremacist closet, then you might one day find yourself outed by the Southern Poverty Law Center. And you'll look like a guy who made no effort to break with his sorry past in a way that might warrant some sympathy.

Something like that happened to a 65-year-old attorney who had a contract with the city of Baltimore to handle some sensitive litigation. Apprised of the situation, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's administration decided posthaste last week to end its relationship with attorney Glen Keith Allen, a contract employee outed for having been a supporter of the neo-Nazi National Alliance.

Allen didn't put up a squawk. He went quietly, agreeing to have his contract terminated.

When contacted by The Baltimore Sun, he described himself as a casual member of the National Alliance in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He acknowledged buying some books published by the alliance and providing the organization with some legal advice. But he said he hasn't been a member in more than a decade.

"Whether you believe me or not," he told The Sun, "I'm not a member of the National Alliance, haven't been for many years."

Of his past affiliation with the group, he said, "I will acknowledge emphatically that that was a huge mistake."

Fine, but it's too late. And you get the feeling Allen realized that.

Admitting you once paid dues to a neo-Nazi group is not like saying you smoked pot in college. It's far more serious, especially if you maintained the habit well beyond the youthful experimentation stage.

So, yeah, Allen knew what was coming, and his deal with the city is over. So is the city's deal with the man who hired him. George Nilson is no longer city solicitor.

All of this because Allen did not take the time, a decade ago, to shake his connection with the National Alliance in some way that might have made his past affiliation tolerable, if not forgivable.

I don't think people should lose their jobs because of what they think. We should abhor negative consequences for personally held beliefs. But, in this case, what happened was in the best interest of citizens of Baltimore.

Sorry, but you don't get to keep secret your onetime affinity for a neo-Nazi group and take part in the city's legal defense of a lawsuit brought by a black man who alleges that Baltimore police withheld and fabricated evidence to convict him wrongfully of murder. And this in the midst of a serious municipal conversation about systemic racism punctuated by a Department of Justice report on police violations of civil rights, particularly in poor, black neighborhoods.

I can defend Allen's right to believe whatever he wants, no matter how disgusting, but not his right to have that kind of job.

Nobody asked me, but … it looks like his superiors at the Baltimore Police Department missed their "teachable moment" for Officer Wesley Cagle in 2013. Cagle was recently convicted of assault for shooting an unarmed burglary suspect who had already been wounded by Cagle's fellow officers. But that was not the first time Cagle had used unnecessary force. Three years ago, he used a Taser on a man who had already complied with an order from Cagle's fellow officers.

That man, Tavon Sherman, filed a lawsuit seeking $400,000 in damages from the city. According to records, Sherman had been a passenger in a vehicle the officers stopped on Oct. 6, 2013. The officers discovered an open warrant for Sherman. He and the officers got into an altercation. Cagle ordered Sherman to sit on a curb. Records say Sherman complied, "but Officer Cagle tased the plaintiff when he continued to flail."

The city settled the lawsuit for $35,000. The Board of Estimates approved that sum last November. A member of the board, Mayor Rawlings-Blake, has defended her record on police conduct by pointing to something she pushed years ago in City Council: a "teachable moments" policy to reduce the chances for future complaints of excessive force. Given what happened in December 2014 — Cagle's wounding of an already wounded suspect — either the officer didn't get his "teachable moment," or he didn't pay attention in detention.

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