The Chicago Police Department has launched an investigation into one of its own officers, after he was exposed by local antifascists as a possible member of the Proud Boys, a far-right group known for violent street fights.
Chicago Antifascist Action released a dossier on Monday that accused Officer Robert P Bakker, a three-year member of the force, of being an active participant in the private Telegram channel called “Fuck Antifa” where local Proud Boys organize meet-ups and other matters.
The screenshots, which are about a year old, appear to show Bakker coordinating Proud Boy meet-ups in the area, and bragging about his contacts with “high police,” which he said he was using to track antifascists’ movements. He also claims he has “government connects,” through which he was pushing to get antifa labelled as a terrorist group.
Bakker, reached by phone on Tuesday, denied that he was a member of the Proud Boys. “That’s actually false,” said Bakker. “I’ve never joined them. I met them once, but never joined them.”
When asked why he was helping coordinate meet-ups for Proud Boys in the Chicago area via Telegram, Bakker said “that was in regards to something else.”
“It was to build friends, and talk with left and right,” said Bakker. “I have many people on the left and the right who are my friends. I was trying to get people on the left and the right together. They took that out of context. That’s all I’m gonna say.”
Bakker then hung up.
The Proud Boys — who describe themselves as “western chauvinists” — are best known for homophobia, xenophobia, misogyny, and brawling with antifascists. One particularly violent clash in New York City in 2018 resulted in multiple arrests of Proud Boys members, including significant jail time for two of them.
While some members of the Proud Boys have sought legitimacy through rubbing shoulders with lawmakers, showing up to Trump rallies, and even running for political office, others make no secret of their connections to hardcore white supremacists or thirst for violence.
The former president of the Chicago Proud Boys is currently serving a prison sentence of aggravated battery charges for stabbing someone at a Dropkick Murphys concert using a 3 ½ inch blade.
Screenshots from the Telegram channel, which antifascists infiltrated, showed that Bakker and Christensen were in close contact.
At times, law enforcement have been accused of having an overly cozy relationship with Proud Boys, who are loudly pro-police. In October, a Connecticut police officer retired after a civil rights organization raised concerns about his membership in the Proud Boys, which was revealed by Associated Press.
In July, a DC police officer was seen on video giving a fist bump to a Proud Boy after they held demonstrations outside the White House. And an officer in Washington state was fired after she posted selfies of herself posing in a Proud Boys sweatshirt.
A spokesperson for Chicago Police Department confirmed to VICE News that an investigation into Bakker had been launched as of noon Central Time on Tuesday.
Bakker’s alleged involvement with the Proud Boys is particularly sensitive, as the Chicago Police Department being monitored by the Justice Department as part of a consent decree to implement a set of reforms that are designed to change the way that their officers interact with the public. The consent decree came after a white Chicago cop murdered a black teenager in 2014.
Investigators will be likely looking to see if Bakker violated two specific policies, said
Luis Agostini, assistant director of communications.
“While Chicago Police Department members have a constitutional right to express their views under the First Amendment, they may be subject to discipline for violating the provisions of the Department's social media policy,” he said.
The policy prohibits Chicago police department employees for posting content that’s disparaging to a person or group based on race, color, sex, gender identity, age, religion, disability, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, or any other legally protected class.
Under Chicago Police Department’s Rules of Conduct, police employees are prohibited from engaging in any action which “impedes the Department’s efforts to achieve its policy and goals or brings discredit upon the Department.”
Cover: Photo taken on Feb. 9, 2020 shows the building of Chicago Police Department near Chinatown of Chicago, the United States. (Photo: Xinhua/Wang Ping via Getty Images)
This article originally appeared on VICE US.