July 8, 2020
On June 6, 2020, Vicki Hillhouse of the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin reported:
A Walla Walla police officer has become a local center of the racial crisis, and not because of his actions [sic].
A tattoo on officer Nat Small’s forearm, inked in 2010 after his service as a scout sniper in the U.S. Marine Corps, includes a double lightning bolt “SS” unofficially adopted at the time by Marines in the elite shooting group despite being a historic symbol of Nazi white supremacy later officially denounced by the Marine Corps.
Since Thursday [June 4, 2020], when pictures of the tattoo were posted on social media channels, the ink has ignited division over public trust.
The department Friday [June 5, 2020] followed with a statement shared via email by Chief Scott Bieber and on its official digital platform [later taken down]:
“We are aware officer Small has a tattoo in honor of his deceased fellow Marine scout sniper, Claudio Patino IV,” the statement said. “The two S’s under the rest of the tattoo is a recognition of both officer Small’s and Cpl. Patino’s status as scout snipers while in the Corps.
Small said he got the tattoo in 2010 with the symbol commonly used among scout snipers. In 2012, Marine Corps General James F. Amos responded to public outcry over a photograph of a group of scout snipers posing with a flag containing a Nazi symbol.
As background to this issues, it should be clearly noted that the Commandant of the United States Marine Corps James Amos issued an official apology and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta pledged to launch investigation just one day after MRFF reveals photos to the international press and sends letter on February 9, 2012 demanding immediate investigation of Marines displaying this notorious, blood-stained symbol. The New York Times reported on February 10, 2012 MRFF’s crucial role in resolving this issue with the Marine Corps:
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told the Marine Corps on Friday to re-investigate and take appropriate action against the Marine snipers who posed with a logo resembling a notorious Nazi symbol.
And in a statement released Friday, Marine Corps Commandant James Amos ordered individual instruction for the sniper and reconnaissance Marines about the prohibitions against inappropriate symbols.
Mikey Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, headquartered in Albuquerque, N.M., said the scandals hurt U.S. military missions. His organization wrote to Amos and Panetta on Thursday (click here to read letter and statement), calling on them to “condemn this stomach-turning display without equivocation or delay and severely punish all of those responsible.”
MRFF’s assistance in resolving this matter with the Walla Walla Police Department was requested via email on June 9, 2020 by a member of the Walla Walla Jewish community:
Myself, a resident of Walla Walla and a member of the Jewish community, and many others in minority groups here in Walla Walla do not feel that we can safely address this matter directly with the WWPD. The Walla Walla Police Department refuses to understand that for many members of the community they serve this is a well-known hate sign. I feel that one could argue that after the Swastika the “SS” bolts are the most recognized Nazi insignia. The solution that Nat Small continues to cover his tattoo on-duty is not enough. This should have been addressed upon hiring him to the WWPD force. We implore Chef Bieber to consider the concerns of his citizens who have faced discrimination and violence under the Neo-Nazi’s who continue to use these symbols as a sign of their “power.” Please Mr. Weinstein and the MRFF, help us in Walla Walla, Washington as we do not feel we are being heard!
MRFF President/Founder Mikey Weinstein contacted Walla Walla Police Chief Scott Bieber via email on June 10, 2020:
Chief Bieber, there is simply NO excuse available for Officer Nat Small to continue to sport this shockingly evil Nazi SS symbology on his left forearm.
On behalf of its client, MRFF herby demands that you order Officer Nat Small to have his Nazi SS tattoo immediately either completely removed or significantly altered to swiftly eliminate any vestige of its current Nazi SS symbology. Further, if Officer Nat Small refuses either of these alternatives, MRFF demands that you immediately terminate Officer Nat Small’s employment with the Walla Walla, Washington Police Department.
While MRFF recognizes Officer Small’s prior military service, it can never condone his decision, for ANY rational reason, to personally display distinctive Nazi symbols even when he might otherwise be “off duty”. Indeed, Chief Bieber, when it comes to matters of the clear display of such wretched symbols of Adolf Hitler and his murderous Third Reich, it is MRFF’s and our client’s position that a police officer is NEVER “off duty” enough to authorize or justify such an obvious display of base, evil and vile Nazi hate!
Without any positive action being taken in this matter by the Walla Walla P.D., MRFF fully supported and recruited individuals to participate in the “STOP THE HATE” protest at the Walla Walla Police Station on June 24, 2020. Chloe LeValley of the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin had reported (June 21, 2020) on this pending protest and reported that “The protest was the recommendation of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.”
On July 8, 2020, Police Officer Nat Small issued a statement through the Walla Walla Police Department that included the following decision:
“I have decided to alter my tattoo to eliminate the “Double S” portion” [emphasis added]. I have not been forced or compelled to make this decision by my superiors at the Walla Walla Police Department or the City of Walla Walla. Further, I have not done this to avoid punishment or financial losses. My actions are my actions alone, and not out of fear of repercussions, but rather in an honest effort to bring healing and unity to the community that I serve, in a time of great division. Let us not be divided based on our opinions, but rather, united based on our values.
MRFF’s lead client in this matter subsequently stated:
Many of us in Walla Walla are grateful to have the support and dedication of the MRFF to bring our voices to light in our community. We appreciate this organization for demanding that the WWPD and City of Walla Walla Government take the time to listen to our concerns – rather than hiding behind deleted social media accounts and abruptly ended phone calls. As a citizen of Walla Walla, I am encouraged to see that Officer Nat Small has issued a statement in response to public concerns and division of his tattoo and that he has made the decision to alter the offensive portion of the design.
I do hope that this will start a discussion into the policies in place concerning the WWPD hiring process. The hiring of an Officer with a recognizable hate-symbol (and known gang-tattoo) brings into question the abilities of the WWPD leadership to serve the many diverse members of the community we live in. Along with this, I hope that the changes to the design come quickly. Again, I appreciate Nat Small’s recent statement but cannot help but question how it was allowed to get this far?
In ongoing support of MRFF’s many clients in this matter and in response to this unilateral [sans positive administrative action] decision by Officer Small, Mikey Weinstein released the following statement on July 8, 2020:
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) guardedly commends Walla Walla police officer Nat Small for his just-announced decision to remove the hideous Nazi “SS“ symbol from the prominent tattoo on his left forearm. MRFF has been deeply into the preparation of a Federal lawsuit to be swiftly filed against the Walla Walla police department and others responsible for allowing this repulsive travesty to occur in the first place. MRFF is being asked now what our decision will be regarding this planned aggressive Federal litigation. The answer is simple; we must see what the new tattoo is going to look like and know when Officer Small is going to take this action.
Lastly, MRFF wants to express on behalf of its numerous Walla Walla clients who are representatives of the Jewish, LGBTQ, people of color and related communities there how terribly disappointed everyone is that the city allowed this to go on so long and especially the role of the police department headed by the blatantly incompetent police chief, Scott Bieber. MRFF and our Walla Walla clients were horrified by the police chief’s blatant Christian proselytizing from the back of that vehicle during the recent public protest and where he (Police Chief Bieber) made it clear that only one person In human history was ever “perfect“ who walked the face of the earth; obviously a direct reference to Jesus Christ. MRFF and our numerous Walla Walla, Washington clients demand that the clueless police chief, Scott Bieber, be immediately fired for both misfeasance and malfeasance. So, while MRFF is pleased that this decision has finally been reached, our Foundation will carefully review this matter as described above before we decide to pull the plug on our planed Federal lawsuit.”
Michael L. “Mikey” Weinstein
Founder and President, Military Religious Freedom Foundation