Now-fired Muskegon, Mich., police officer Charles Anderson has an excuse for having Confederate flags displayed throughout his home and a Ku Klux Klan application hanging on his bedroom wall: He’s simply a history buff and a fan of the ’80s TV show “The Dukes of Hazzard.”
Anderson’s collection of racially-fraught memorabilia came to light when a Black man, Robert Mathis, was house-hunting and toured Anderson’s home, which was for sale. He shared a photo on Facebook of the KKK application and expressed concern over a police officer supporting hate groups.
“I feel sick to my stomach knowing that I walk to the home of one of the most racist people in Muskegon hiding behind his uniform and possibly harassing people of color and different nationalities,” the post read.
The 421-page report of the investigation that led to Anderson’s firing says the explanation he offered for the Confederate flags was that they were part of his collection of “The Dukes of Hazzard” memorabilia. The action-comedy TV show featured the adventures of two cousins who drove around the fictional Hazzard County, Ga., committing Robinhood-esque crimes and racing around in a souped-up Dodge Charger with a Confederate Flag painted on the roof.
“I love ‘The Dukes of Hazzard,’” the report cites him saying. “That’s the reason for the Confederate flags. They mean nothing other than it was just part of that collection.”
While the symbol appears in the show, the characters are not members of the KKK. Anderson said he had the KKK application because he collects items from U.S. history. The report says Anderson described himself as an amateur historian interested in the time period from the late 1800s until the 1960s. It said he was “adamant” that the application was an antique from that time period that he purchased in Indiana about six years ago.
“It’s our heritage,” he said in the report. “I mean it occurred, good or bad, and it’s part of history.”
The report says when the investigators asked Anderson if he left the particular memorabilia up to dissuade people of color from purchasing his home, he denied it. He said he forgot to remove the application from the wall of the bedroom that he kept his collection in because he took out everything that was not affixed to the walls.
He denied his connection to the KKK, citing his Catholic beliefs and the fact that Catholics were also a target of the hate group. He also said his religion teaches him to treat everyone equally. He said while on duty, he once helped a Black man who was about to kill himself by jumping off of a bridge, and that he has an LGBTQ friend that could vouch for his morals.
Regardless of Anderson’s intentions, Mathis’ discovery caused an uproar in the community. The report says the investigators interviewed three pastors from the Baptist community whose names have been redacted. It summarized the experiences the pastors shared.
“The general consensus of the African-American community is that this is part of the police culture, is supported, and the police condone this,” the report says. “It is believed that no action will be taken against Anderson at all. The feeling is that the cap between the community and the department will never grow closer, as this situation pushed us further apart.”