CPD Officers Probed for Ties to Proud Boys and Oath Keepers Won’t Be Disciplined, Department Says

(WTTW News)(WTTW News)

None of the Chicago police officers probed for their ties to far-right extremist groups like the Proud Boys or Oath Keepers will be fired by city officials, a spokesperson for the Chicago Police Department told WTTW News Thursday.

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None of the allegations examined by the Bureau of Internal Affairs were sustained, and the investigation announced by Chicago Police Supt. Larry Snelling has been closed, said CPD spokesperson Margaret Huynh in response to inquiries from WTTW News.

Six months ago, Snelling promised the Chicago City Council’s Budget Committee that he would rid the Chicago Police Department of officers with ties to hate groups and far-right extremist organizations after “stringent” and “thorough” investigations.

The remarks came in direct response to a series of stories by the Chicago Sun-Times and WBEZ revealing that the names of nine Chicago Police Department members appeared in leaked rosters for the Oath Keepers, an anti-government extremist group.

“It serves the Chicago Police Department in no way, in no way good, to have members amongst our department who are members of hate groups,” Snelling said. “And we will not tolerate it.”

In response to a question from Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd Ward), Bureau of Internal Affairs Chief Yolanda Talley said Oct. 24 those probes would take approximately six months. That deadline passed on April 23 without any public action by Chicago police leaders, prompting WTTW News to inquire about the investigation.

WTTW News has submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the Chicago Police Department for additional information about the probes.

In all, WBEZ and the Sun-Times reported that 27 current and former members of the CPD had ties to the Oath Keepers.

During that October hearing, Talley said CPD brass had no evidence indicating that any officers had ties to the Oath Keepers until the stories were published.

But that is not true, according to WBEZ and the Sun-Times, which obtained a copy of a letter sent to police leaders in August 2022 by the Anti-Defamation League that identified eight Chicago cops with ties to the Oath Keepers. Reporters’ questions about that letter prompted a new inquiry into those officers, according to the report.

For 18 months, City Council members, civil rights groups and police reform advocates have been enraged and baffled by what they see as the department’s halting response to evidence of extremism in its ranks.

In October 2022, police brass rejected a recommendation from Inspector General Deborah Witzburg to terminate an officer who lied about his ties to the far-right Proud Boys extremist group. Instead, that officer served a 120-day suspension.

In January, police brass rejected a recommendation from Witzburg to terminate an officer who admitted belonging to the Oath Keepers. That officer remains on active duty with the CPD and earns nearly $109,000 annually, according to a city database.

During that probe, the Chicago Police Department officer “admitted to being a former member of the Oath Keepers, having joined in 2010 or 2011 and having been a member for three to four years,” according to the inspector general’s report. Despite that, department officials closed the probe finding that the allegation was “not sustained” even though the officer admitted belonging to an organization the Southern Poverty Law Center, one of the nation’s best-known civil rights organizations, considers to be a “far-right anti-government group.”

Membership in extremist organizations like Oath Keepers and Proud Boys constitutes a violation of CPD policy, Witzburg said.

Members of both groups participated in the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection, and leaders of both groups have been convicted of seditious conspiracy.

The Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability voted in November to ban police from associating with or belonging to hate groups that promote prejudice or those that aim to overthrow the government or interfere with police duties, including the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has called on Chicago officials to “adopt clear and unambiguous policies and procedures prohibiting city employees from actively associating with hate and extremist groups.”

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

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