Series exposed use of Nazi imagery, Hitler quotes in law enforcement training
June 3, 2021 – Three duPont Manual High School students won the prestigious Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award and the inaugural RFK New Voices award for their 2020 series “Bigoted Badges” that exposed Kentucky law enforcement agencies’ use of Nazi imagery and Hitler quotes in their training materials.
The award, announced during an online ceremony on June 3, comes with a $1,000 prize for the students’ publication, Manual RedEye.
Reporting in the series, which was confirmed by a number of professional news outlets, led to the resignation of Kentucky’s top law enforcement officer and public promises from Governor Andy Beshear to conduct a “top to bottom” review of Kentucky law enforcement training practices.
The first story in the series, “KSP training slideshow quotes Hitler, advocates ‘ruthless’ violence,” has been the most-viewed story on RedEye’s website since it was originally published on Oct. 30, 2020 and continues to receive hundreds of views each month.
The students — 2021 graduate Payton Carns, rising senior Satchel Walton and rising sophomore Cooper Walton, all members of the school’s Journalism & Communication magnet program — said they were excited and honored to receive the prestigious award.
Carns, who edited the story as RedEye’s editor-in-chief, said the experience showed that student journalism can make a difference.
“As a student journalist, it can be discouraging wondering if your work is actually making an impact,” Carns said. “The magnitude this story has reached reminds me that we’re capable of creating these uncomfortable, but necessary conversations. It reminds me that what we do matters.”
Satchel Walton, the lead reporter for the series, described the RFK award as “a great honor.”
“I hope that any renewed attention from the award brings more people to look over the original Kentucky State Police slideshow and think about how it is related to the policing crisis that has been gripping our nation,” he said. “I hope that the audience can make it past the shocking and important lede and have productive conversations about how we should train and use the police in this country.”
Cooper Walton, Satchel’s younger brother, added that the RFK award “highlights the power and capability of student journalism.”
“In the beginning, taking up what felt like such an important story was nerve-racking,” Cooper Walton said, “but I’m proud that with the help and support of our fellow students and teachers in J&C, we were able to produce a series of articles that help to accentuate that student journalism makes a difference.”
Manual RedEye advisers James Miller and Liz Palmer released a joint statement touting the students’ work, saying, “We couldn’t be prouder of our students and their accomplishment. The RFK journalism award is one of the most prestigious in the nation, and helps emphasize not only that student journalism is real journalism, but that student journalists can make a difference in their communities.
“Satchel and Cooper Walton were quick to spot a good story and take action on it, but we also must acknowledge the enterprising students in our journalism magnet who worked hard alongside them during every phase of the process to make sure the story was ready.”
Founded by the reporters who covered Robert F. Kennedy's historic 1968 presidential campaign, the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards honor outstanding reporting on issues that reflect Robert Kennedy's concerns, including human rights, social justice, and the power of individual action in the United States and around the world.