A far-right paramilitary organization has found success in recruiting law enforcement officers in America’s largest cities, according to a recent investigation from NPR, which found this information through leaked records.
The investigation shows active officers in New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago on membership rosters, with Chicago showing the greatest representation of the three. In the Chicago Police Department, they found 13 active members in the group the Oath Keepers.
Odette Yousef, domestic extremism correspondent at NPR who reported on the story, said the Oath Keepers have an appeal to law enforcement and ex-military members because of one of the group’s core ideas: to protect constitutional rights against all enemies foreign and domestic. That idea of leaving service, but still committing to upholding that value can be very appealing, she added.
“The concern that gets raised around having police officers or sheriffs designate themselves as interpreters of the law, the ones who can decide whether something is constitutional or not, raises some concerns around whether they are in fact applying the law equally and whether they are applying the law as it has been interpreted by the courts,” Yousef said.
The Southern Poverty Law Center identifies the Oath Keepers as one of the largest far-right antigovernment groups in the U.S. today. They’ve existed since 2009, but the Jan. 6 insurrection has intensified scrutiny of the group. At least 21 people who have been charged in the attack also are alleged to have ties to the group.
The Chicago Police Department responded to NPR saying they launched an investigation and that “while CPD members have the First Amendment right to express their personal views, the Department has strict rules of conduct prohibiting members from engaging in any behavior that would impede the Department’s efforts to achieve its goals or discredit the Department.”
WTTW News also reached out to the Chicago Police Department who replied that no one was available for an interview at this time.