Head of City Council’s public safety committee renews call to fire Chicago cop with ties to far-right Proud Boys

“We have fired officers in the past with less transgressions in their associations,” Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th) said of an officer with ties to the group Proud Boys.

SHARE Head of City Council’s public safety committee renews call to fire Chicago cop with ties to far-right Proud Boys
Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th) speaks during a Leaders Network meeting at the Columbus Park Refectory in the Austin neighborhood.

Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th), said Chicago Police Supt. David Brown’s reasoning for not firing an officer with ties to the Proud Boys and who lied to police investigators defies common sense.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th) says he wants to keep the heat on Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Police Supt. David Brown to fire an officer with alleged ties to the far-right Proud Boys and send a message that hate groups won’t be tolerated.

Taliaferro held a news conference Tuesday, days after the Southern Poverty Law Center sent a scathing letter to the mayor and superintendent over the decision to suspend the officer, Robert Bakker, instead of firing him.

The West Side alderperson and two other members of the City Council are sponsoring a resolution calling for Brown to attend a public hearing on the investigation into Bakker.

The resolution hasn’t been called to the City Council floor.

Taliaferro said previous superintendents would’ve fired the officer, not just for his extremist ties, but because an internal investigation found that he lied in an internal police investigation.

“My opinion is that the superintendent should fire this officer,” Taliaferro said Tuesday at a meeting of the Leaders Network at the Columbus Park Refectory, 5701 W. Jackson Blvd.

“We have fired officers in the past with less transgressions in their associations,” said Taliaferro, who is chair of the City Council’s Public Safety Committee.

Brown has defended his decision not to fire the officer, claiming in an October City Council meeting that investigators didn’t have evidence to prove Bakker was associated with the Proud Boys or any other hate group.

At the October meeting, CPD Internal Affairs Chief Yolanda Talley claimed the probe “would have looked totally different” had the FBI labeled the Proud Boys as a hate group. But Taliaferro said that position defies common sense.

“If anyone associates with a group — whether or not the FBI has labeled them a hate group or not, but they’re generally viewed in public as a hate group — they should be fired,” he said.

Asked to comment, the police department repeated a statement issued last week that it doesn’t tolerate its members associating with hate groups and will investigate any new allegations that arise against Bakker.

Bakker’s suspension ends March 1, following two internal investigations into his ties to the Proud Boys.

Those investigations began after antifascist activists outed Bakker’s ties to the Proud Boys in May 2020 by releasing private communications between him and the group.

Police investigators then learned Bakker had failed to disclose that FBI agents contacted him months earlier about his ties to the far-right group.

Bakker was initially handed a five-day suspension for failing to disclose the interview, but other allegations on his association with criminals and members of the Proud Boys were not sustained.

The case was reopened at the request of city Inspector General Deborah Witzburg, who in November 2020 said investigators overlooked incriminating evidence and “inconsistent statements” Bakker made to investigators.

Taliaferro said the second investigation resulted in five sustained allegations against Bakker, including one allegation that he made contradictory statements to investigators.

Bakker then offered to serve a 120-day suspension for those violations.

Taliaferro, who served as a Chicago police officer for 23 years, said he had never heard of an officer recommending their own suspension.

“I served in internal affairs for nine years, and I never had an officer recommend a penalty. It’s unprecedented,” he said.

Although that suspension was the result of a binding agreement between Bakker and the city, Taliaferro said the superintendent can still fire the officer.

“I want to stress that,” Taliaferro said.

Taliaferro claimed CPD has taken a relaxed attitude toward officers accused of breaking a department rule against lying in investigations.

When Taliaferro was an officer under Supt. Jody Weis, he said it was a given that any officer would be automatically fired for lying in an investigation.

“The officer would be fired because he would no longer be credible in court,” Taliaferro said.

Taliaferro said the new Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability should take a stand on the issue.

“We also have to engage that commission as well to push for policies that could hold the superintendent accountable,” the alderperson said.

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