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Suspended CPD officer with Proud Boys ties will return to work one day after city elections

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Robert Bakker

Robert Bakker, the Chicago police officer suspended last October for 120 days after lying to investigators about his association with the far-right group Proud Boys, will be back on the street March 1, the Sun-Times reported in a recent story.

Bakker’s return will come one day after Chicago’s general election on February 28, where Mayor Lori Lightfoot is seeking a second term, as she stays silent as a group of aldermen seek to hold hearings to decide whether Bakker should be terminated from the force.

As crime continues to rock affluent parts of the city, Lightfoot’s re-election campaign remains in doubt among North Side voters, who are unhappy with her leadership. Many, along with the Chicago Police Department’s union, are supporting Paul Vallas, former CEO of Chicago Public Schools.

Police Superintendent David Brown claimed investigators didn’t have enough evidence to prove Bakker “was a member of or was associated with Proud Boys or any other hate group.”

But on January 5, the Southern Poverty Law Center, a Civil Rights organization, blasted Lightfoot and Brown for keeping Bakker on the police force. In a blistering letter, Jeff Tischauser, a senior research analyst for the law center, called for Bakker’s termination.

“We urge the city to adopt clear and unambiguous policies and procedures prohibiting city employees from actively associating with hate and extremist groups,” Tischauser writes.

“We also believe Bakker should have been fired for his active participation in extremist activities – and then lying about it.

“The CPD is neglecting its commitments to protect and support Chicago communities by allowing Bakker to continue in his role as a law enforcement officer. Allowing Bakker to retain his role can create an environment of impunity for other officers who may associate with violent groups and contribute to the erosion of trust between the public and law enforcement authorities.”

Ira J. Acree, senior pastor of Greater St. John Bible Church, said, “How can CPD justify allowing any hateful individuals to patrol our community? I demand the Department terminate this officer and all officers who associate with hate groups.”

Co-Chair Reverend Cy Fields, senior pastor of New Landmark Missionary Baptist Church, added, “They are a danger to America; they are called domestic terrorists.”

Last month Alderman Byron Sigcho Lopez (25th) introduced a resolution calling for a Public Safety Committee hearing to decide on the “ultimate disciplinary course of action” against Bakker.

Alderman Chris Taliaferro (29th), the committee chair, and Jeanette Taylor (20th) are co-sponsors of the resolution, which calls for the testimony from Brown and Internal Affairs Chief Yolanda Talley. It also requests the input of city Inspector General Deborah Witzburg and Andrea Kersten, chief administrator of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, to “be present to provide further context.”

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.

Investigators concluded that Bakker had made “contradicting statements” about his activity in Proud Boys’ chat channels and had made a “false statement” about attending a barbecue linked to the group.

On Tuesday, January 10, Taliaferro joined the Leaders Network monthly meeting in Austin with Pastor Marshall Hatch. As chairman of the City Council’s Public Safety Committee, Taliaferro said, “I believe the officer should have been fired.”

Hatch, pastor of New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church, said, “At a minimum the City Council should hold hearings and investigate the level of influence these extremist organizations have inside the Chicago Police Department.”

The group was founded in 2016 when Donald Trump became the nation’s 45th president. In his campaign for the White House, Trump, during a nationally televised debate, refused to denounce white supremacy amid questions about his support from the Proud Boys.

Since the group’s founding, the Proud Boys have been accused of instigating street fights across the country, including the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a white supremacist murdered counter-protester Heather Heyer in a vehicular homicide.

On December 12, 2020, after attending a pro-Trump rally, the Proud Boys marched around Washington, D.C., destroyed Black Lives Matter banners displayed from two historic Black churches, and then attacked perceived political enemies, which led to four people being stabbed.

This week, the federal trial involving five Proud Boys, including Chairman Enrique Tarrio, begins in Washington, D.C. The men are charged with seditious conspiracy in connection with the insurrection of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.

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