Top Cop Defends Investigation into Chicago Police Officer’s Ties to Proud Boys

Chicago police Superintendent David Brown talks about city crime rates on Monday, Aug. 23, 2021. (WTTW News)Chicago police Superintendent David Brown talks about city crime rates on Monday, Aug. 23, 2021. (WTTW News)

Chicago Police Supt. David Brown said Thursday his department’s investigation into an officer’s ties to the far-right Proud Boys was “thorough and complete” even though the head of internal affairs erroneously told the Chicago City Council it was hampered by the fact that the group was not designated a hate group by the FBI.

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The FBI does not identify domestic groups as hate or extremist groups, according to an agency spokesperson.

The Proud Boys have been labeled by the FBI as an antisemitic white supremacy organization, according to the third quarterly report by Inspector General Deborah Witzburg released on Oct. 14 that documented the culmination of the probe into the officer and his ties to the Proud Boys. The Proud Boys has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

In response to a question from WTTW News, Brown reiterated that he has “zero tolerance” for any department employee “being engaged with, involved with, in any way, hate groups, regardless of who designates the hate group.”

Echoing his Friday testimony to the City Council, Brown said that investigators with the department’s Bureau of Internal Affairs “were not able to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that this officer was a member of, or was associated with, the Proud Boys, or any other hate group.”

Bureau of Internal Affairs Chief Yolanda Talley told members of the City Council that the officer “felt so bad” about being associated with the Proud Boys that he “volunteered” to be suspended for 120 days. If he had fought the discipline, he would have likely only been suspended for five days, Talley said, telling alderpeople she was “speaking frankly.”

“The Proud Boys is not identified as an FBI hate group,” Talley said. “If the Proud Boys were identified as a hate group, this investigation would look totally different.”

Brown did not directly answer a question Thursday about whether Talley’s erroneous belief that the FBI could have designated the Proud Boys as a hate group, but did not, compromised the investigation.

“In my opinion, you know, regardless about, you know, what someone might have said, whether it was Chief Talley or others, I would just point you back to my response: We have zero tolerance, a thorough and complete investigation, we could not prove by a preponderance of the evidence any of the alleged allegations,” he said. 

The department’s probe determined the officer made a “a false statement” during the course of the investigation when asked if they attended a Proud Boy sponsored barbecue and made a “a contradicting statement” during a recorded interview about participation in a group chat with members of the Proud Boys, according to the report released by Witzburg.

The officer, who has not been identified by city officials in keeping with rules governing misconduct investigations, was suspended for 120 days. 

The Office of the Inspector General urged the superintendent to consider terminating the officer because they violated departmental rules prohibiting the making of false reports. Brown did not respond to that recommendation and approved the 120-day suspension.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot has also defended the decision not to fire the officer.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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