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CPD decision not to discipline officers tied to Oath Keepers under review

CPD

Chicago Police Superintendent Larry Snelling’s decision not to discipline nine police officers tied to the right-wing extremist group the Oath Keepers is being reviewed by Chicago Inspector General Deborah Witzburg, who called on Mayor Brandon Johnson to keep his campaign promise.

The nine active-duty Chicago officers who appeared on the Oath Keepers data are Sgt. Michael Nowacki, Detective Anthony Keany, and Officers Phillip Singto, Alberto Retamozo, Matthew Bracken, Bienvenido Acevedo, Dennis Mack, Alexander Kim and John Nicezyporuk.

Witzburg recently told WBEZ her office will review all the work the Chicago Police Department’s Bureau of Internal Affairs had done to investigate the cases of the individual officers who appeared on Oath Keepers’ membership rolls.

“If we find an investigation to be deficient in any way, which materially affects the outcome, we will recommend that the investigation be re-opened,” Witzburg said.

Witzburg has slammed previous CPD investigations into officers linked to the Oath Keepers and two other extremist groups that include the Proud Boys and Three Percenters.

Questions remain about Snelling’s decision after he vowed at a City Council meeting last October there would be “thorough investigations” into the officers and promised to “remove those members from our ranks.”

At that same meeting, Snelling also told Council members, “It serves the Chicago Police Department in no way, in no way good, to have members amongst our Department who are filled with bias, or members of hate groups.”

But Snelling on May 3 said the officers wouldn’t be punished. CPD released a statement Thursday night, saying, “We can confirm the investigation is closed and the allegations were not sustained.”

The officers named appeared on a leaked list of Oath Keepers’ membership rolls. Federal prosecutors said Oath Keepers played a key role in the insurrection on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.

In an internal investigation report that was released, CPD says the members claimed they joined the Oath Keepers for training and its support of the Second Amendment.

The officers also claimed they joined the group before 2012 and had no idea they were joining a hate or white supremacy group.

A WBEZ and Sun-Times investigation found 27 current and former Chicago police officers whose names appeared in leaked Oath Keepers’ membership records. Nine remained on active duty and some have troubling disciplinary histories, the joint investigation found.

Chicago Police Internal Affairs came under heavy criticism for its light treatment of Officer Robert Bakker, who lied to investigators about his close ties to the neofascist Proud Boys, another group involved in the 2021 Capitol riot.

Bakker was initially suspended for five days. But in November 2020, Witzburg wrote a letter asking the case to be reopened after investigators had overlooked incriminating evidence and noted that Bakker had made “inconsistent statements” to the FBI as well as the Department’s Internal Affairs Bureau.

Bakker ultimately entered into a mediation agreement and was suspended for 120 days, drawing criticism from alderpersons and activists who called for his dismissal.

According to the WBEZ Sun-Times investigation, another officer, Nowacki, got a three-day suspension in 2007 after he told Englewood community activist Deborah Payne’s email request for charitable donations, “I have no desire to help inner city poor people.” Payne called for Nowacki to be fired after learning of his Oath Keepers’ ties.

Nicezyporuk, another officer on the Oath Keepers’ list, was accused by Black men of using racial slurs during two traffic stops. He denied it and was not disciplined. In one case, Nicezyporuk’s accuser said the incident on the West Side in 2014 left him “scared to be around white people like that …. especially white cops.”

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