LINCOLN SQUARE — A group of civil rights attorneys are demanding answers from the city as to what, if any, discipline a Chicago cop has faced since his ties to the Proud Boys were discovered nearly two years ago and police launched investigations into separate sexual abuse claims.
The Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights sent a letter Tuesday to Mayor Lori Lightfoot, alderpeople and Supt. David Brown, asking for updates on Officer Robert Bakker. Bakker was identified as an officer who was active on a Proud Boys group chat on Telegram in a story published by Vice in May 2020.
Bakker helped organize Proud Boys meetups in Lincoln Square and Andersonville and bragged about his access to “high police” in screen captures of the chats made public by Chicago Antifascist Action.
The police opened four internal investigations into Bakker in 2020, including one focused on accusations of sex abuse, the Sun-Times reported last year. The department handed Bakker a five-day suspension — which was then deferred due to an Office of the Inspector General investigation, according to the Sun-Times.
It is unclear if Bakker served the suspension or what resulted from the sexual abuse allegations, which date back to before he joined the department.
Spokespeople from the Civilian Office of Police Accountability and Office of the Inspector General told Block Club investigations into Bakker were referred to the police department’s Bureau of Internal Affairs.
The Police Department did not respond to questions about its investigation into Bakker or his suspension. City records show Bakker is still employed full time as a police officer with an annual salary of $80,016.
Attempts to reach Bakker were unsuccessful.
The lawyers group said in its letter that public information about Bakker “more than justifies his termination,” and its members called on the Police Department to do more to root out white supremacy.
“I just think it’s unacceptable that there’s been no update and that this officer, as far as we know, is continuing to patrol the streets and enforce the laws,” said Arusha Gordon, associate director of the James Byrd Jr. Center to Stop Hate at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “That’s deeply concerning, and it really breaks the trust that the community could ever hope to place in the police department.”
The Proud Boys is a hate group focused around white nationalism, and it maintains affiliations with neo-Nazis and similar racist groups, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The leaked group chats included messages between the president of the Chicago Proud Boys, three avowed white nationalists and Bakker, according to the lawyers.
The chat logs show Bakker planning meetings among members of the group chat, being invited to an official Proud Boys event and using threatening language to refer to progressive activists.
Bakker wrote in the group chat, which was called “F— Antifa,” he would use his position as a police officer to identify and locate antifascist activists, according to the shared screenshots.
Doing so would be a violation of Bakker’s oath as an officer and likely a violation of civil rights of those targeted, the civil rights lawyers said in their letter.
“Chicago’s failure to take swift action to investigate, discipline and update the community regarding white supremacist activity in its ranks raises serious concern,” said Bonnie Allen, the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee’s CEO.
The Proud Boy meetups happened at locations in Ald. Andre Vasquez’s (40th) ward: a home in Andersonville and at a Lincoln Square bar.
When Vasquez learned about the messages last year, he reached out to Lightfoot’s office to ask about how the city would address Bakker’s actions, the alderman said.
Vasquez said he was told there was an investigation into Bakker, but he never got an update and said he’s been “in the dark” about what discipline, if any, Bakker received.
“If you’ve got somebody in the role of a police officer that has those kinds of biases and that kind of mentality, that is dangerous to people of color and is dangerous to the city in general,” Vasquez said.
Vasquez helped take action against racist graffiti in Lincoln Square as a community organizer before he was elected to office. Since becoming alderman, he’s seen an uptick in hate speech through racist stickers and signs, he said.
This rise in hate speech combined with the lack of clear answers on what discipline Bakker faced highlights the importance of having a civilian oversight board holding the Police Department accountable, Vasquez said.
“Their work is to look at what’s not working well within the Police Department and issue policy that talks to that. It makes absolute sense they could tackle something like what’s going on with Bakker,” Vasquez said.
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