Skinhead gangs are notorious for their black boots, racial prejudices and, of course, shaved scalps. But Kevin Hauschild says he got involved in Phoenix United Skinheads (PUSH) because they were different.
"Yeah, we dressed like skinheads and everything," Hauschild says, "but what we were trying to do was educate other skinheads about racism and what a bunch of shit it is."
That was a year ago, Hauschild says, and although he has grown his hair back, his skinhead past--no matter how benign--continues to dog him. Last month it got him expelled from the Scottsdale Police Explorers and the Junior Law Enforcement Academy, where teenagers considering a career as police officers get a taste of what law enforcement is all about.
Sergeant Frank Hylton, who coordinates the Scottsdale Explorers Post, says a Scottsdale detective saw Hauschild's name in a newspaper story about the post and notified the academy that he had skinhead connections.
Hauschild, nineteen, who says he was a PUSH member for only eight months, claims he hasn't shaved his head in a year and never associates with skinheads. But his past association was enough to get him booted from the preprofessional police training, which he worries could ruin his chances of pursuing a career as a cop.
"I haven't done anything wrong; I'm just interested in being a policeman," Hauschild says. "The problem is that the cops can't seem to tell one skinhead from another."
Mark Barnett, a spokesman for the Scottsdale Police Department, says officers do recognize a difference between "good" and "bad" skinheads, but that both groups have been known to break the law.
MD120 "We have to recognize the different factions and whatever they claim to be," Barnett says. "But the department has information which associates all the [skinhead groups] we know with inappropriate behavior."
Hauschild had been enrolled in the two-week academy--where students study how officers handle domestic violence, hostage situations, homicides and technical jobs like fingerprinting--for only four days when officers pulled him out of class to question him about his skinhead activities. Hauschild says he told the officers that PUSH was a nonracist group that dressed like skinheads and listened to the same type of music. He says they replied that there is no such thing as a "good skinhead," and that they were "all criminals and violent organizations that are not acceptable to society.
"They didn't even accuse me of getting arrested or anything," Hauschild says. "But they kicked me out anyway.
"I think they just thought I was a little dipshit who was into all that white supremist bullshit. I think guys into that stuff are idiots," he says. "All I wanted to do was learn about police work."
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While Hauschild may not be able to continue his law enforcement training, he could get another chance to learn about the legal system--through the courts. After his expulsion, Hauschild contacted the Arizona Civil Liberties Union. His ACLU attorney says if Hauschild isn't reinstated in the Explorers and the Academy, he plans to file a civil suit against the city.
Gary Peter Klahr sent a scathing letter to Scottsdale Patrol Captain Page Decker July 12, accusing the department of violating Hauschild's constitutional rights and "blackballing" him from future consideration as a Scottsdale policeman.
"You cannot penalize Kevin for being a member of [PUSH] any more than you could penalize him for being a member of the ACLU or the NAACP or any other lawful, noncriminal organization of political or cultural opinion," Klahr wrote.
"Basically what they've done is told him he isn't morally or socially fit to be a policeman," he says, "based on a nonviolent group that he was a member of a year ago. Even if he had been part of a bad skinhead group, if he doesn't have a record of crimes, they can't disqualify him on that basis.