Video: "Black undercover cop infiltrates KKK"

updated 1/19/2006 9:56:00 PM ET 2006-01-20T02:56:00

In the late 1970s, the Ku Klux Klan was expanding in Colorado.  Ron Stallworth was an undercover cop who tried to infiltrate the group.  He disguised himself as a bigot and signed up with a local KKK chapter. 

He began by answering a newspaper ad by phone and used what he said were all the buzzwords the Klansmen liked to hear.  They liked Stallworth, asked him to join.  Time went by and he became intimately involved with the group.  He even exchanged numerous phone calls with Klan leader David Duke, who would often mock or insult minorities on the phone with Stallworth. 

He was considered one of the KKK's most loyal members.  So one day, the group even asked him to be the leader of their local chapter in Colorado Springs.  But there was one huge hurdle Stallworth had to overcome during his work, he’s black.

Former police officer and card-carrying member of the Ku Klux Klan, Ron Stallworth joined Dan Abrams to talk about his extraordinary experience.

To read an excerpt from their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.

DAN ABRAMS, HOST, 'ABRAMS REPORT’:  How does being black play into your undercover work? 

RON STALLWORTH, WENT UNDERCOVER WITH THE KKK:  Well, obviously, it was an obstacle.  When this whole investigation started, I honestly didn't think it was going to go very far. 

I answered this ad in the classifieds.  It said, “Ku Klux Klan:  For information, call.”  And then there was a phone number. 

And since I was in intelligence and investigator for the Colorado Springs Police Department, I called the number and didn't think it was going to lead anywhere.  And lo and behold, another guy answered the phone and told me that he was starting a chapter in Colorado Springs and wanted to know if I was interested.  And I said, “Yes.”  I then spoke with him about why I wanted to join. 

ABRAMS:  What did you say?  What would you say to him? 

STALLWORTH:  I told him I was a pure Aryan, white man, which in and of itself is a joke.  But I said I was a pure Aryan, white-blooded American male, that I had been the victim of racial prejudice because of the dominance of blacks, Jews, and Mexicans, and other minorities, except I used the racial terms that they liked to use referring to those groups. 

ABRAMS:  Right.

STALLWORTH:  And I even went so far as to tell them that part of the reason why I wanted to join was I had found out that a sister of mine had dated a black guy.  And that, to me, was just the ultimate offense.  And he couldn't believe that. 

And so he said I was just the type of individual that they were looking for.  They were interested in expanding and asked me if I wanted to join.  And I said, “Sure,” gave him my real name, and made arrangements to meet with him. 

It turned out he was a soldier in the Army, stationed in Fort Carson, Colorado.  And I arranged to meet with him.  I gave him a physical description of myself, obviously didn't tell him I was black, and told him I would be arriving at a certain type of vehicle and go from there. 

ABRAMS:  And then you actually sent a white officer in your place to a meeting? 

STALLWORTH:  Yes.  I gave my physical description, because I knew a good buddy of mine working the narcotics division for the department matched my physical description.  And what I did was I gave this officer all of my identification, minus anything with a picture, credit card, library card, this type of thing, and told him of my conversation on the phone, told him what I wanted to accomplish with a face-to-face meeting, and wired him for sound and sent him to the location. 

He met with the guy.  The guy gave him some literature, KKK literature, gave him an application form, told him they were part of the Denver chapter.  Denver had a chapter at that time.  And they were forming one in Colorado Springs and were looking to just promote their pure, Aryan, white race agenda in the Colorado Springs area.

ABRAMS:  What did you learn about the Klansmen?  What kind of crimes do you think you were you able to prevent? 

STALLWORTH:  Well, I was more interested, from an intelligence-gathering standpoint—obviously, any crimes that came up we would have followed up on.  But I was mainly involved from the intelligence-gathering aspect.  I do know that they planned several cross-burnings over the year that I had this investigation going, and I knew about those cross-burnings well in advance, so that we would have police officers saturating a particular neighborhood.  And during the entire year of this investigation, at no time was a cross ever burned in Colorado Springs. 

ABRAMS:  Final question.  David Duke, you talked to him on the phone a couple times, and he said to you that he always knows when he's talking to a black man on the phone.  He can always tell.  And he was confident that you were a white man? 

STALLWORTH:  I talked to David Duke once or twice a week over the year that this investigation took place.  And David did tell me that he could tell I had a little fun.  I asked him one time.  I said, “Aren't you afraid of being infiltrated by the police or maybe some black person trying to get information on the group?”  He said, no, he never worried about that.

And I asked him why.  He said, “I can always tell when I'm talking to a black man because they pronounce words and letters a certain way.” 

And he said, “I can tell that you're a pure-blooded white man, because you don't pronounce your words in that manner.”  And from that point on, I started pronouncing those words in that manner just to play with him. 

Watch the 'Abrams Report' for more analysis and interviews on the top legal stories each weeknight at 6 p.m. ET on MSNBC TV.

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