In a video released in early June, just days after his firing from the Bellevue Marshal’s Office, former Idaho police officer Nate Silvester—who got internet famous in April with a viral TikTok mocking LeBron James’ tweet calling for accountability for the cop who killed 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant — stated that the teen girl’s “death was tragic but it was also justified.” He also chastised his critics’ “radical woke ideologies,” and issued a declaration, or perhaps a warning, that “because I’m not wearing a badge anymore, you’re going to be hearing a lot more from me, so buckle up.”
Now Silvester seems to be delivering on that promise, by launching a police-boosting podcast, writing a book about being a cop that’s slated for release later this year, and founding a nonprofit to give financial aid to police officers who have been unfairly “mistreated.” He’s also expanding his social media footprint to defend law enforcement agents from what he described to me as the “anti-police sentiment… of the left.”
All this is made possible not only by the free time of unemployment, but also because of a GoFundMe campaign for Silvester that has seen the donations roll in. The campaign, launched by Silvester’s friend Gannon Ward on April 28, initially had a goal of just $10,000—money meant to supplement “at least a week’s worth of pay for suspension” from the Marshal’s Office after Silvester’s TikTok went viral and officials put out a statement declaring “this is NOT how we expect our Deputies to act on duty or use city time.” Three days later, the GoFundMe had over $200,000 in donations; less than a week after that, funds topped $460,000. As the pot has climbed, and the organizer has repeatedly increased the target monetary goal, Silvester has thanked donors via short talking-head videos posted on the campaign page. “We’re not going to tolerate being attacked or bullied or vilified in the media anymore,” he told followers in an early clip.
There were also new beneficiaries named as the Go Fund Me donation pile grew. After the campaign surpassed its goal within hours of launching, an update from organizer Ward informed donors that then-officer Silvester “has decided to donate a portion to the charity The First Responders Children’s Foundation, a charity for the families of fallen officers and first responders. Therefore,” Ward added, “I’m upping the goal.” A day later, as funds continued to accrue and the target goal was again raised, a video update from Silvester noted “the additional funds that are coming in…they’re going to be used to make more content to shed positive light on law enforcement.” The next day, a new Silvester clip announced plans to found “a nonprofit organization that’s going to benefit officers” who are “being vilified and demonized constantly by Hollywood, by the media, and we can’t stand for it anymore.” (In a lengthier text update, Silvester indicated that “I will be the CEO of this organization.”) On May 6, Silvester posted footage of himself touting recent TV appearances he’d made since going viral, and declared he’d just signed a book deal to produce a work that would “help educate people like LeBron James and others who have a very limited understanding of police officers.”
Silvester’s Go Fund Me goal has now been raised to $1,000,000, and the campaign has taken in more than $540,000—and climbing. The header on the page was long ago changed from “Please help Officer Nate Silvester recover his pay” to “Please Help Officer Silvester & Other Families.” No doubt, his indications that he plans to spread the wealth, so to speak, have helped the flow of donations continue. When I spoke with Silvester earlier this week, I asked whether he had yet given the promised donation to the First Responders Children’s Foundation (FRCF).
“Well, no,” he told me. “For some reason, they’re very hard to get ahold of, and they initially reached out to me when they found out that I was going to be donating a portion of that GoFundMe campaign to them. And then, there was some brief correspondence between me and the foundation, but I haven’t heard from them since. I’m still waiting to reconnect with the staff at that foundation so that we can discuss that. But that still hasn’t changed. And I’m still going to donate to them, but just waiting to hear back essentially.”
I got a hold of staff from FRCF in a few hours and with relative ease, and talked via phone and via email with spokesperson Dan DeMello. In a written message, DeMello told me that after Silvester “declared the proposed donation via the media,” an FRCF staff member reached out to him and an “enthusiastic” exchange occurred. However, recently, the agency has been awaiting Silver’s next move.
“Last contact the foundation actually had with him was in late April. We reached out on May 3 and then again later in May (on Go Fund Me) in the hopes of confirming an exact amount, but haven’t heard back yet,” DeMello wrote to me. “We’re hoping he’ll come through on the donation because the funds would mean a lot to these children whose parents were lost in the line of duty.”
One of the things keeping Silvester busy is likely Never Off Duty, the book he has in the works. Silvester told me that while it won’t be a traditional memoir, the book will “definitely cover my experience as a police officer, but then the larger focus will be on what many police officers experience over the course of their careers.”
“I’m hoping that this book will change a few minds, and change a few hearts about people who have a very unsavory opinion about police officers,” Silvester told me, adding the title is a reference to “societal pressure and the stress that police officers experience while they’re on duty. Pressure from the public, pressure from their administration. Being held to sometimes an impossible standard. And then, they never really get any relief from that, even when they’re off duty.”
I asked Silvester about how the book deal came about, and he told me the virality of the TikTok and resulting news coverage had led to a connection with independent imprint Di Angelo Publishers.
“The president of the company reached out and said, ‘Hey, have you ever thought about doing a book?’ And it just so happens that I have thought about doing a book, I just never really pulled the trigger on exploring that very seriously,” Silvester said. “And all of a sudden, this opportunity was placed in my lap. And she explained to me what the contract would look like, and how we would proceed with getting the book written, and getting it published, and out by September. And then, we drew up a contract, and got to work.”
Silvester demurred when I asked him about financial and other details, including whether he’d received an advance. Di Angelo president and founder Sequoia Schmidt, who told me she could not answer questions specifically related to Silvester’s book, spoke very generally about how the publishing house produces its output. She noted that Di Angelo does not pay author advances—“We never have, and we never will,” Schmidt told me—and instead, writers fund book costs up front based on an estimate from Di Angelo staff that differs based on the needs of each project.
“We are heavily involved in the production process,” Schmidt told me. “We evaluate how much work will be involved on our behalf, i.e., how many of my staff editors will have to come in, if there needs to be a ghostwriter involved, things like that. And we evaluate from there expenses associated with the project. With traditional publishers, the advance is usually used to create the book—you’re given an advance and you go out and, if you don’t know how to write a book, you hire a ghostwriter with that advance money. For us, we help create the book. So the need for an advance is not there. For us, it’s about the creation of the product itself.”
I followed up with Silvester to ask if any of the Go Fund Me money had been used to pay for book production costs. He did not respond to my query.
I also asked Schmidt how she discovered Silvester, and she told me a friend had shown her Silvester’s video at a dinner party. Not long thereafter, “one of our in-house editors, it just so happens to be his brother-in-law. And he came to me and he said, ‘My brother-in-law is garnering a lot of media attention right now. He’s getting a lot of requests for interviews. Will you take a look at this video?’ And I said, ‘Oh, I know this video, I saw it last week.’ And when it comes to something like that, like I said, we’re about a powerful story. And obviously if there’s 6 million views on a video, that’s a powerful story that’s resonating with a lot of people.”
Even more ambitious than Silvester’s book is the nonprofit he plans to form, which a Go Fund Me update indicates “will benefit displaced officers who experience financial hardship as a result of being denied due process in administrative matters with their respective departments.” Silvester told me Blue Funds, the planned nonprofit’s name as of this date, will distribute those funds “in the form of grants or scholarships to officers who apply for benefits.” Though he has not yet secured 501(c)3 status or established a launch date, Silvester told me he plans to navigate the process in the near future with his business partner and lawyer. He also told me, and the Go Fund Me states, that benefits will be determined on a “case by case basis” by a panel comprising, per Silvester, “people with law enforcement experience, and people without. What I’m envisioning is a panel of people who can be fair and impartial and objective when they’re deciding the outcomes of these individual cases.”
“We obviously don’t want to provide benefits for an officer who has committed a crime, and has been proven to have committed a crime, or has been proven to have violated someone’s rights,” Silvester told me. “And there might be a fine line there that we would have to navigate, but these funds are for officers who essentially have done nothing wrong, but have been mistreated by their administration.”
I asked him to cite a case that might fit eligibility requirements.
“There was an officer in Washington, D.C. He and some other officers were on a traffic stop of some kind, and they were being recorded by a citizen with a cellphone, and the citizen asked the officer, ‘Are you going to shoot me like Ma’khia Bryant?’ And the officer responded, ‘Well, are you going to stab somebody like her?’ And that officer got fired over that comment. He was simply responding to a citizen, and responding in a way that it wasn’t bigoted, it wasn’t racist, it wasn’t offensive. It was just very matter of fact, and he lost his job over that. Now, I think he has since gotten his job back, but that would be a very good example of the type of situation that the nonprofit would reach out to, or would try to benefit officers that are involved with some sort of being mistreated, or their situation being handled unfairly.”
According to a spokesperson for the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, the police officer in the video cited by Silvester was neither suspended nor fired over the incident, and is still on the job. But the video did indeed go viral, briefly, in late April. Tucker Carlson dedicated an entire segment to the clip on his nightly talk show. (The Fox News host identified the citizen speaking to the officer in the video as a BLM activist. There is no proof of this.) The episode included a discussion between Carlson and conservative activist Candace Owens, who pointed to the footage as proof that Democrats want “a socialist dictatorship.”
Silvester continued: “I can say for myself that I am not a racist as a police officer, or just as a citizen. And I have not worked with any police officers who are racist, and that are corrupt, and that are unethical people. All of the police officers, including myself, that I worked with over the years are very scrupulous, moral people. And they’re out there trying to do the best they can in a very tough job. I’m not naive enough to believe that there aren’t some bad actors out there who wear the badge and do bad things. That’s been obvious. We’ve heard about some of these. But it’s very unfair to characterize an entire industry of people, of law enforcement officers, as systemically racist and inherently corrupt based on the actions of a few bad ones.
“I think that there’s always been certain groups of people, or the segment of the population that have always had that anti-police mentality. But I think now just with the age of social media, and just news media in general, that is intensified, and we’re just seeing a lot more of it, because that’s what a lot of news outlets are choosing to report on. But we don’t often get to hear from the other side, from the supporters, because that doesn’t make good news.”
It’s true that there have been, in recent years, more media reports that reflect negatively on the police. While police killings have remained relatively steady, there’s been more media coverage of those killings. Media still continue to repeat police inaccuracies and lies, as several recent cases—including the killing of George Floyd—reveal. There remains no national database of police misconduct, including lethal abuse, despite the fact that a nearly three decades old law mandated the creation of such data keeping. And most police misconduct, which is handled internally by departments, remains unknown to the public—though police misconduct is the primary reason why people are falsely convicted. For all the public attention that police abuse has gotten in recent years, prosecutions remain incredibly rare and convictions nearly unheard of. Just this week, reports confirmed that “for the second straight year only about 27 percent of police departments have supplied data,” in defiance of a 2019 presidential order.
I asked Silvester if he plans to return to policing. He recently told Fox News host Sean Hannity about job offers from other departments, and a 2020 Yale study indicated a significant number of cops who are fired are rehired by another department within three years. But he believes he can do more to benefit the police as a citizen.
“I love being in law enforcement. The unfortunate part is, based on my experience and what we’re seeing around the nation, you can’t wear the badge and have an opinion at the same time, and enjoy the full protection of the First Amendment as far as your freedom of speech,” Silvester told me.
“I feel like I’m in a much better position to be able to advocate for police officers who find themselves displaced, and being vilified by the media, and abandoned by their police departments and their administrators than I would be if I were working for a police department, and being constrained by the policies in that department… My endeavor since I started creating TikToks was to humanize the badge, and to shed a positive light on law enforcement. That’s the only reason I continued to do that.”