Chicago cop who allegedly lied about Proud Boys affiliation gets 120-day suspension

Chicago Police Department officers on Wednesday mentioned that an officer who was investigated by the division for affiliating with a white nationalist group and located to have given false statements about it should serve a 120-day suspension starting subsequent month.

The determination by Superintendent David Brown comes within the wake of a suggestion from the town inspector basic that Brown put aside the suspension and as a substitute evaluate the case and think about firing the officer.

The division didn’t supply an evidence for the choice or how Brown reached it.

According to paperwork launched to the Tribune by the town’s Office of Inspector General in an opens data request, the interior Chicago police investigation into Officer Robert Bakker’s alleged affiliation with the Proud Boys included allegations that over a number of months in 2019 he related to members of the white nationalist group and posted messages in a bunch chat, together with about meeting at a pub, and was additionally concerned in exchanges about a “patriot barbecue.”

Inspector General Deborah Witzburg went public in latest days together with her suggestion that Brown evaluate the case and think about whether or not separation is a greater possibility for Bakker, who was discovered to have given false statements when requested about his hyperlinks to the Proud Boys, which has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Witzburg had made her suggestion for a evaluate public in a broadcast report final week and once more Tuesday morning, when she supplied remarks at a metropolis funds listening to and was requested by an alderman about the controversial case, which has been topic to 2 inside investigations and concluded with a mediation course of with the officer and the 120-day suspension.

“We sent Superintendent Brown a letter encouraging him to examine the mediation agreement before approving it in light of the department’s findings that the member has made false and contradictory statements about his membership in a hate group,” Witzburg mentioned on the listening to. “The superintendent approved the mediation agreement and finalized a suspension of 120 days for that member.”

On Tuesday, the division mentioned the case was below evaluate, whereas Mayor Lori Lightfoot defended the investigation.

“Obviously, that case was thoroughly investigated, I think not once, but twice,” Lightfoot mentioned. “That officer was given a lengthy period of suspension. I don’t get into the details of that. But I think it’s about accountability. … I think the Police Department took the steps that the evidence that was gathered through the course of the two investigations warranted.”

When requested by a reporter how Chicagoans can belief the police to maintain them protected if the division doesn’t hearth an officer who has lied to investigators about his ties to an “antisemitic, anti-gay far-right group” with leaders who have “been charged with sedition in connection with Jan. 6 insurrection,” the mayor referred to as the characterization overstated.

“Well, I think you overstate it,” Lightfoot responded.

Had Brown determined to hunt separation, the case can be despatched to the Chicago Police Board, which holds public evidentiary hearings on essentially the most severe police misconduct circumstances.

Attempts by the Tribune to succeed in Bakker had been unsuccessful.

The Southern Poverty Law Center notes that members of the Proud Boys had been current with different hate teams at a 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that led to the dying of a 32-year-old lady.

In June 2022, the Department of Justice introduced {that a} federal grand jury within the District of Columbia returned an indictment charging 5 members of the Proud Boys, together with the group’s former nationwide chairman, with seditious conspiracy and different prices for his or her actions earlier than and throughout the breach of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

The officer’s affiliation with such a bunch in a metropolis with a documented historical past of civil rights abuses by police and at a time when belief with police in communities of coloration stays low has drawn criticism.

Ald. Andre Vasquez, fortieth, who requested Witzburg about the scenario on the funds listening to, indicated that he can be searching for solutions from Brown and the division, given the “problem we currently have had in Chicago as far as racial profiling the way police treat people of color.”

“The fact that somebody would get suspended for 120 days for something of that matter is just something I want on record before we talk to CPD and the superintendent,” he mentioned.

Bakker is assigned to the Central District downtown. The metropolis of Chicago worker knowledge portal lists one Robert Bakker, who is listed as a police officer with a wage of $95,500.

The allegations towards Bakker are contained in two letters that the inspector basic’s office despatched to Chicago police officers, one in November 2020 and one other simply final month, in makes an attempt to encourage them to take a more in-depth take a look at the proof they’d collected towards Bakker.

The letters had been launched to the Tribune late Tuesday as a part of an opens data request.

According to the 2020 letter from the inspector basic, the primary investigation by the division’s bureau of inside affairs examined a number of allegations towards Bakker, together with that he failed to inform his bosses that he was interviewed by the FBI about his involvement with the Proud Boys, that he had related to people with felony or misdemeanor convictions and that he related to members of the Proud Boys, “an organization labeled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as an antisemitic White Supremacy organization.”

Investigators solely sustained the allegation that Bakker didn’t report the interview with the FBI. The letter states that inside affairs defined its conclusions by saying that Bakker “denied any involvement with the Proud Boys organization and (the internal affairs investigator) with the available resources could not obtain any verifiable evidence to disprove his statement.”

But the Office of Inspector General despatched a letter to the chief of inside affairs to evaluate proof to see if extra allegations might have been confirmed.

“OIG recommends the investigation be reopened to fully account for all available evidence,” reads the letter launched to the Tribune.

The letter comprises particulars about the investigation and Bakker’s alleged statements and notes “the evidence suggests that Bakker may have made inconsistent statements to the BIA and the FBI and includes text messages between Bakker and members of the Proud Boys.”

According to the letter, proof within the case confirmed that Bakker commented not less than six occasions on a message group titled “Fxxx Antifa.” He allegedly instructed investigators that he attended discussions with the Proud Boys. The investigators additionally had display screen pictures of messages from the group displaying that Bakker posted about meeting at a North Side pub and was a part of one other message string that included an invite to the “2nd annual Chicago PB’s Patriot Picnic.”

Bakker additionally allegedly instructed inside affairs investigators that he knew he was associating with people who had histories of violence and hyperlinks to the Proud Boys, the letter states. He mentioned that one of many people he related to was recognized to be a “violent guy” who was into “dark stuff like White Supremacy,” in line with the letter.

Internal affairs agreed to reexamine the case, and in its second evaluate concluded that Bakker made “a contradicting statement during (an) audio recorded statement” relating to his participation in a bunch chat with members of the Proud Boys and made “a false statement” throughout the course of BIA’s investigation when requested if he attended a Proud Boys-sponsored barbecue, in line with Witzburg’s public report launched final week on the matter.

Internal affairs resolved the case in April 2022 with a mediation settlement. Per the settlement, Bakker agreed he wouldn’t contest any of the allegations towards him in change for the 120-day suspension.

Such agreements are typically binding — except the superintendent evaluations the circumstances to contemplate separation.

On Sept. 12 Witzburg’s office despatched the division a request to evaluate the case once more, this time on to Brown.

“Even in the presence of a mediation agreement, you may seek separation of a CPD member,” the letter reads. “In your consideration of Bakker’s mediation agreement, OIG recommends that you review the evidence collected by BIA during its original and reopened investigations with respect to Bakker’s association with the Proud Boys.”

The letter additionally famous the findings that Bakker had lied, a extremely problematic conclusion in a career that depends on sworn testimony of officers to safe arrests and convictions of individuals. Such allegations usually lead to a Rule 14 violation, in line with Witzburg’s report.

In this case, Rule 14 was not filed towards the officer, and Witzburg, in her letter, inspired Brown to contemplate it, quoting instantly from a letter Brown himself had written to the Civilian Office of Police Accountability in an unrelated case.

“Since approximately 2008, CPD has sought the separation of officers with sustained Rule 14 violations,” Brown wrote, in line with the letter, “because such a violation impairs an officer’s ability to testify in criminal cases, to effectuate arrests, hinders an officer from signing affidavits in support of search warrants and participating in joint federal task forces.”

Witzburg by no means received a response from Brown.

“The Superintendent did not respond to OIG’s further communication,” her quarterly report, launched Friday, reads. “According to CPD’s case management system, the Superintendent concurred with BIA’s findings and approved the 120-day suspension agreed upon by the CPD member and the Department during the mediation process.”

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Georgetown Law professor Vida Johnson mentioned the allegations towards the officer demanded not solely consideration of separation, however a swift determination.

“Keeping him on the force sends a message to the community, particularly to people of color, women and noncitizens, that they are less than,” mentioned Johnson, who has studied extremism in policing. “If I were the police chief, that is the thing I would be really worried about.”

Johnson mentioned there may be additionally fear that officers who are concerned with such teams can affect different officers, which is why addressing the issue shortly is vital.

“I think having even one officer who holds those values and views is extremely damaging,” she mentioned.

Johnson mentioned departments that uncover officers who have affiliation with hate teams ought to do extra than simply study the person officer’s violations. They also needs to do a “deep dive” into their exercise each contained in the division on the road, given the authority they’ve.

Just final week a prosecutor in Massachusetts introduced she can be reviewing each open and closed circumstances involving an officer who is alleged to have participated in and helped plan the Charlottesville rally.

“We are acutely aware of the way in which these allegations tear at the fabric of trust, which exists between communities and the police departments which serve them,” reads a press release that was posted on the Middlesex district lawyer’s office on Oct. 14.

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