Chicago police are investigating an officer’s alleged affiliation with the Proud Boys, a far-right group that has a small contingent in the Chicago area, and his participation in one of the group’s chatrooms.
Chat logs leaked Tuesday appear to show Officer Robert Bakker communicating and organizing meetups last summer with members of the Proud Boys, which has been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The Anti-Defamation League describes the organization as a misogynistic, Islamophobic, transphobic and anti-immigrant extremist group with some members that “espouse white supremacist and anti-Semitic ideologies.”
The Proud Boys reject being labeled a hate group and instead describe themselves as racially inclusive “western chauvinists.” The group’s founder Gavin McInnes, sued the SPLC for defamation last year over its designation.
Bakker, a nearly three-year veteran of the CPD, appears to have used his real name and hinted at his status on the police force over the course of the communications leaked by local antifascist activists who infiltrated the Proud Boys’ “F- - - Antifa” Telegram chat channel.
CPD spokesman Luis Agostini confirmed that an investigation was launched Tuesday “to determine if [Bakker] violated any Department, rules or regulations.”
“While Chicago Police Department members have a constitutional right to express their views under the First Amendment, they may be subject to discipline for violating the provisions of the Department’s social media policy,” Agostini said in a statement.
That policy prohibits members of the department from using social media to post content “that is disparaging to a person or group based on race, color, sex, gender identity, age, religion, disability, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, or any other legally protected class,” Agostini said.
Reached on Wednesday, Bakker told the Sun-Times in a series of text messages that he was never a member of the Proud Boys. He didn’t deny he took part in the group chat but claimed it was “dedicated to a discussion about [antifascists] which later led to me being doxed,” referring to the practice of revealing someone’s personal information online, which he called “illegal.”
“I cut all my ties with them shortly after,” added Bakker.
Though he admits that he invited other members of the group chat to hang out, Bakker said those interactions weren’t tied to any affiliation with the Proud Boys and were simply “impromptu gatherings to have a few drinks and have discussions.” He said that some of the meetings included African Americans, Latinos, Jews and “even a Marxist” — and that their presence proves that the accusations against him “are wrong.”
“The ‘investigation’ carried out by [antifascists] is baseless,” Bakker said. “I do not support violence by any group.”
However, the leaked chat logs, first reported by Vice, include messages from participants that include attacks against specific individuals with leftist political ideologies and calls for setting up fights with them.
Thomas Christensen, the president of the Proud Boys’ Chicago chapter at the time, was allegedly among the most active participants of the channel.
Christensen was sentenced to over three years in prison last November for stabbing another man at a Dropkick Murphys concert at Northerly Island in 2017. While he was awaiting trial in the case, Christensen and others tied to the white nationalist movement showed up at a rally downtown to protest Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx decision to drop charges against actor Jussie Smollett for allegedly faking a hate crime.
Last July 1, Christensen appears to have posted a photo to the group chat of a rainbow-colored CPD emblem that the department posted on social media to celebrate members of the LGBTQ community.
“Wtf. Rob come get ya boyz,” wrote Christensen, tying Bakker to the department.
Bakker later responded, “Nooo s- - -!!! And i’m not wearing any rainbow bulls- - -,” he said.
Later that month, local antifascists with Chicago Antifascist Action began revealing the identities of members of the Proud Boys and publicly identified Bakker as a police officer.
The disclosure led one chat participant to declare: “Time to start kicking ass give me names and locations when u got the info.”
The chat group changed its name to D-Fence Squad. Bakker ultimately weighed in: “They know my name huh? Well i have gov connects that officially label them as terrorists and have been in communicqtion [sic] with police about there whereabouts,” Bakker wrote.
“Hmm, i hope they do try to f- - - me as that would explode in their faces as exposing themselves to the gov lmao,” he added.
There is no evidence any participants in the chat engaged in any physical retribution against the activists who made Bakker’s identity public.
Bakker has faced no formal complaints or allegations of abuse while on the job, according to records of police discipline maintained by the Invisible Institute. City records show he receives a yearly salary of $72,510.
As of Wednesday, Agostini said there has “been no news if he’s been stripped of his police powers.”