close
close

Chicago Police Department is required to reopen investigation into Oath Keepers case

Chicago Police Department is required to reopen investigation into Oath Keepers case

It may be true that eight Chicago police officers did not know that the Oath Keepers were a far-right, anti-government militia when they joined the group.

Perhaps none of them had “any intention of joining a violent extremist group,” as Chicago Police Department Bureau of Internal Affairs Deputy Director Timothy Moore concluded in his investigation.

But we agree with Inspector General Deborah Witzburg who wanted CPD to take another look at the matter. In our view, failure to do so creates the impression that senior leadership is neglecting the matter.

The city is caught in a grim Groundhog Day loop. The Office of the Inspector General has been pushing the police department, dating back to former Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration, to reopen investigations into officers’ ties to far-right groups. The Inspector General’s office has been largely shut down.

The Police Department re-evaluated some findings, resulting in disciplinary action against an officer.

But the recent refusal to re-examine the allegations against the eight officers only weakens the already fragile trust between the police and the majority of citizens who do not want our diverse city’s officers to be allied with a group that played a critical role in the January 6 Capitol riots.

The police have little to lose by reopening investigations into the officers in question. Why don’t they follow Witzburg’s request and clearly address the “deficiencies” she points out?

One problem, Witzburg said, was that a lawyer could be heard giving answers to a detective and an officer during recorded interviews by internal affairs officials, reported Dan Mihalopoulos of WBEZ and Tom Schuba of the Sun-Times.

If Witzburg is at her wits’ end, we can’t blame her. Not only has police leadership “failed” to uphold its supposed zero-tolerance policy toward extremist cops, Mayor Brandon Johnson’s administration has also failed to establish a task force at City Hall to address the problem of extremism within the police ranks, as it had recommended.

When Michael Fanone, the former Washington DC police officer who nearly lost his life in the Capitol attack, wrote in his 2022 book that local police officers sympathized with the insurrection, it didn’t seem to particularly worry senior police officials there.

“They didn’t take it seriously at all,” Fanone told Politico last year.

The police and the city of Chicago seem to be doing the same thing.

The Sun-Times welcomes letters to the editor and opinion pieces. Read our guidelines.

Send letters to [email protected]

More about the Sun-Times editorial staff at chicago.suntimes.com/about/editorial-board