The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights called on the Chicago Police Department (CPD) and other Chicago officials to update the community on the status of investigations into CPD officer Robert Bakker, who has been tied to the notorious Proud Boys hate group and make systemic changes within the department to address issues of white supremacy, in a letter sent on Tuesday.
The letter specifically calls for reforming procedures so that officers who engage in conduct that undermines trust in the department, do not remain employed by CPD months and years after they have shown themselves unfit. In May 2020, group chats were leaked showing that Officer Bakker had engaged extensively with members of the Chicago Proud Boys. After the group chats became public, CDP issued Officer Bakker a strikingly inadequate suspension of five days. It is unclear whether Bakker has yet served that suspension.
“As hate crimes continue to rise across the nation, Chicagoans need a police department that they can trust to stand with them and against hate,” said Arusha Gordon, associate director of the James Byrd Jr. Center to Stop Hate at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “That is not possible when the CPD retains an officer who participated in Proud Boy events, suggesting a culture within the department that condones racism and hate. The city must act immediately to send a clear message and build a police department that can effectively protect the residents it is sworn to serve.”
The group chat, named “Fuck Antifa,” included the President of the Chicago Proud Boys, three open white nationalists, and Bakker. The chat logs show Bakker planning meetings between members of the group chat, being invited to an official Proud Boys event, and using threatening language to refer to progressive activists. In the chat, Bakker explicitly tells the group he would use his position as a CPD officer to identify and locate antifascist activists. Doing so would violate his oath as a peace officer and likely a violation of the civil rights of those targeted.
Officer Bakker’s activity has profoundly undermined public confidence in him, preventing him from performing his duties effectively and deepening community mistrust in the department, the letter said. In summer 2021, the Chicago Sun-Times revealed that Bakker is facing an internal probe into allegations of sexual abuse and is the subject of four internal investigations that were all opened in 2020. According to the civil rights groups’ letter, Officer Bakker’s conduct violates CPD policy and is not legally protected speech.
“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, CEO of Chicago Lawyers’ Committee.
Read the letter here.
About the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law – The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice for all, particularly in the areas of voting rights, criminal justice, fair housing and community development, economic justice, educational opportunities, and hate crimes. The James Byrd Jr. Center to Stop Hate, a project of the Lawyers’ Committee, supports communities and individuals targeted for hate and challenges white supremacy by using creative legal advocacy and litigation, disrupting systems that enable hate, and educating the general public and policy makers. For more information, please visit https://lawyerscommittee.org.