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CPD suspends cop tied to Proud Boys, launches probe into sex abuse claim

Officer Robert Bakker has been the subject of four internal investigations that were all opened last year, according to records obtained by the Sun-Times. 

Chicago police have reopened an investigation into Officer Robert Bakker’s ties to the Proud Boys.
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A Chicago cop has been issued a five-day suspension amid an investigation into his ties to the far-right Proud Boys and is now facing a second internal probe into allegations of sexual abuse, the Sun-Times has learned.

Officer Robert Bakker is the subject of four internal investigations that were all opened last year, according to records obtained by the Sun-Times.

Though the inquiry into Bakker’s cozy relationship with the Proud Boys initially resulted in the suspension, he hasn’t yet served it because the case was later reopened at the request of Inspector General Joseph Ferguson’s office, according to a source with knowledge of the investigation. The inspector general’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ald. Andre Vazquez (40th) previously raised alarms about Bakker to Police Supt. David Brown and Mayor Lori Lightfoot that he said fell on deaf ears. In an interview Wednesday, Vazquez said Bakker’s interactions with the controversial group should have resulted in “an immediate dismissal or some kind of punitive action.”

Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th) speaks at a press conference at the “Black Trans Lives Matter” mural on Aug. 22, 2020.
Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th)
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

“That’s clearly not been the case,” he said. “This officer’s still out there and there really hasn’t been any kind of accountability. It’s a huge concern.”

Bakker is assigned to the police department’s 1st District and collects a yearly salary of $76,266, city records show.

He didn’t respond to repeated requests to comment.

Multiple active investigations

The latest internal probe targeting Bakker, launched early last August, involves accusations of sexual misconduct and aggravated sexual assault that allegedly occurred in January 2017, nearly a year before he joined the Chicago Police Department as a probationary officer.

The department’s Bureau of Internal Affairs is actively investigating those claims, which fall outside the jurisdiction of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, the city agency charged with investigating police misconduct.

The records contain no specific details of the allegations, and it’s unclear whether the case was ever formally referred to prosecutors.

Tandra Simonton, a spokeswoman for the Cook County state’s attorney’s office, said prosecutors are “aware of CPD’s pending investigation.”

“If information is referred to us, we will review to determine if criminal charges are appropriate,” Simonton said. No criminal charges have been publicly filed.

His ties to the Proud Boys, first reported by Vice last year, prompted an internal affairs probe into “conduct unbecoming violations,” which are officially described as “instances when a Department member acts in a manner which degrades or brings disrespect to the Department or a Department member.”

The reporting centered on leaked chat logs that show Bakker communicating and organizing meetings with members of the Proud Boys, which has been designated as a hate group by the Canadian government and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Members of the Proud Boys, self-described “Western chauvinists” who often spar with leftist activists, have since been ensnared in a sprawling federal investigation into the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

With the megaphone is Ethan Nordean, second from left. Outside pressures and internal strife are roiling two far-right extremist groups after members were charged in the attack on the U.S. Capitol. Former President Donald Trump’s lies about a stolen 2020 election united an array of right-wing supporters, conspiracy theorists and militants on Jan. 6. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, file) ORG XMIT: WX203
A group of Proud Boys walk toward the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021.
AP

While Bakker previously told the Sun-Times that he was never a member of the group, he didn’t deny taking part in the Proud Boys’ “F--- Antifa” Telegram channel. In the chat logs, Bakker spoke harshly of a rainbow-colored police emblem that the department posted on social media to celebrate the LGBTQ community.

“I’m not wearing any rainbow bulls- - -,” he said.

A post from the Proud Boys’ Telegram chat channel appears to show Thomas Christensen, the imprisoned former leader of the far-right group’s Chicago chapter, alerting Officer Robert Bakker to a CPD post celebrating the LGBTQ community.

Shortly after Bakker’s connection to the Proud Boys was made public, Ald. Vazquez reached out to Supt. Brown and informed the mayor’s office that Bakker had attended Proud Boys’ meetups in his North Side ward. But as he continued to search for answers, Vazquez’s frustrations boiled over in a scathing email.

“Yesterday on a call with the Mayor is the first response to this that I have received since last Wednesday and the only answer I received was ‘oh sorry, there is an investigation,’” Vazquez wrote in the email to Lightfoot and three of her staffers last June.

“Considering the number of threats of Proud Boy activity across the city and directed at our ward and businesses that is COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE,” he added. “We had neighbors in full on panic and fear asking us for answers that you all either forgot to provide, ignored and didn’t provide, or just outright didn’t want to provide until I had to ask it at a briefing in front of the full council and the Mayor.”

Vazquez then claimed it’s “insufficient” for officials to merely say an investigation is ongoing. The police department has repeatedly declined to provide records to the Sun-Times related to open investigations.

After Bakker was given the five-day suspension, the case was reopened on Dec. 4, 2020, based on a written request from the inspector general’s office, a source said. Another investigation related to a civilian complaint accusing Bakker of being part of “the white supremacist group” Proud Boys had been closed on June 2, 2020, because it was duplicative, the source added.

Another internal probe targeting Bakker also resulted in a formal punishment, records show. In January, he was reprimanded after he and his partner failed to search a police cruiser where a pellet gun was later discovered.

Bakker tied to wrongful termination suit filed by Muslim cop

He was also implicated in an internal investigation that was sparked by an anonymous complaint to the inspector general’s office, referred to COPA and later closed, a source said. A COPA spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a request for information about its probe.

Those investigations are apparently tied to a federal lawsuit filed against the city in 2019 by a former cop named Reema Surgit, who has claimed she was “unlawfully terminated” earlier that year. Surgit, who is Muslim, alleged in a recent filing that she was “subjected to a hostile work environment and a work culture based on her sex, religion, national origin, color and/or race.”

The filing notes that she and Bakker both started working at the CPD’s 1st District on Sept. 24, 2018, when Lt. Steven Konow allegedly began “screaming at her and claiming that she was to report the day before.” When she pushed back and told him she’d confirmed her start date, Konow allegedly “accused her of lying.”

Bakker, however, wasn’t publicly reprimanded despite also allegedly being a day late, the suit holds.

Surgit claims the abuse continued, and Konow and Lt. David Natelson both contributed to a toxic work environment before she was ultimately fired. Bakker isn’t accused of any wrongdoing, but the suit notes he was able to stay on the job after his ties to the Proud Boys came to light.

The allegations in the lawsuit mirror those included in records of the closed administrative case, which named Bakker and the two lieutenants.

Surgit’s attorney didn’t respond to a request for comment. Neither did the city’s Law Department.

Charges dropped in 2006 arrest

Although Bakker had a clean disciplinary record until last year with only one unsubstantiated complaint, records show he was arrested over a decade before he applied to join the police force.

On April 7, 2006, Bakker was working the door at an “illegal rave party” inside a Bucktown apartment when officers were called to break it up. Bakker and three other men were then placed in custody, records show. Bakker, who was 22 at the time, was charged with serving alcohol without a liquor license and not having a public place of amusement license.

The charges were later dropped, and Bakker disclosed the arrest when he applied to become a cop.

A report showing Officer Robert Bakker’s arrest record from 2008 when he applied to be a cop is included in his personnel file. The charges were later dropped, and Bakker disclosed the arrest when he applied to become a cop.
CPD

Contributing: Frank Main