Chicago police must take it seriously when an officer has ties to right-wing Proud Boys

At a time when trust in the department is at an all-time low, such ties send the message that city leaders appear unwilling to weed out extremists from CPD ranks.

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Chicago Police Supt. David Brown speaks at a press conference in May. CPD should have fired an officer with ties to the Proud Boys, the IVI-IPO says.

Chicago Police Supt. David Brown speaks at a press conference in May. CPD should have fired an officer with ties to the Proud Boys, the IVI-IPO says.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times

There has been a great deal of controversy about a Chicago police officer with ties to the Proud Boys, a radical organization that espouses racism, violence, antisemitism and anti-democratic ideals.

There are two parallel issues that need to be recognized and addressed by the Chicago Police Department.

First, the officer’s association with the Proud Boys. It is clear from the investigation that the officer in question had some ongoing relationship with the Proud Boys. This organization has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and as an antisemitic white supremacist organization by the FBI. Its members were central in the investigation by the House Select Committee on January 6th.

Opinión

Opinión

It is clear the CPD Bureau of Internal Affairs does not take these associations with enough seriousness. The bureau recommended the officer, Robert Bakker, receive a five-day suspension for “failing to submit a written report explaining that they were under investigation by the FBI.” This recommendation misses the mark entirely and falls far short of Police Supt. David Brown’s supposed standard of “zero tolerance” for officers who associate with members of hate groups.

Second, this officer then provided inconsistent testimony when questioned. Initially, when interviewed by the FBI, he stated he looked into the organization but did not engage in further association with them.

But Inspector General Deborah Witzburg’s report reveals the officer made “a false statement” when asked if he attended a Proud Boys-sponsored barbecue and “a contradicting statement” during his recorded interview about participation in an online group chat with members of the Proud Boys.

The IG report recommended terminating the officer due to violation of departmental rules against making false reports.

The Independent Voters of Illinois-Independent Precinct Organization generally hesitates to take positions on individuals, instead focusing on issues. Here, however, the two are inextricably tied together. IVI-IPO categorically opposes and decries both people and organizations that espouse racism and other dangerous ideals.

Nobody who holds those beliefs, or is associated with an organization that espouses them, has any business being a sworn and armed officer in the Chicago police force. Nobody who lies to the FBI and the CPD Bureau of Internal Affairs has any business being a sworn officer, because at a minimum, it means their testimony would forever be tainted.

The recent decision by the command staff of the Chicago police to suspend the officer in question for only 120 days fails to appropriately recognize the severity of the danger of such an organization, and the danger it poses to the public to have members of such organizations as armed officers on our streets.

At a time when trust in the department is at an all-time low, this sends a dual message to communities that city leaders appear unwilling to weed out extremists from CPD ranks. It also shows others in the ranks that Brown’s stated “zero tolerance” policy is hollow.

IVI-IPO calls for this officer’s termination. We call on the BIA and Brown to review CPD policy on extremist acts and association with extremism by officers, and make changes that will lead to an actual “zero tolerance” standard within the ranks. We call on Mayor Lori Lightfoot to stand up to the extremists that threaten members of the LGBTQ, Jewish and communities of color.

It is time for our leaders to project a stance that does not minimize the extremism of organizations like the Proud Boys.

Former Ald. John Arena is on the board of the IVI-IPO, on behalf of which this was written.

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