A police recruit in Lafayette, Indiana, was fired after an anti-fascist marked his apparent ties to a neo-Nazi Internet forum, authorities said Saturday.
The recruit, Joseph Zacharek, is believed to have participated in a forum called “Iron March” four years ago, Lafayette Police Chief Patrick Flannelly said in a statement.
The department became aware of Zacharek’s post on Friday when a self-described anti-fascist tagged his Twitter account with a link to messages from the forum, which were published on a website called “Iron March Exposed”
The department launched an investigation and determined that the communications were accurate and credible, the statement said.
“Officer Zacharek’s comments were not in line with the spirit of cooperation and inclusion in society that the Lafayette Police Department values,” Flannelly said.
Zacharek was hired by the department earlier this year and had “no exposure” to the public, Flannelly said. The statement added that it had conducted a background check on Zacharek but had not found any links to the forum during this process.
“We strive to learn from this study to ensure that it never happens again,” Flannelly said.
Efforts to reach Zacharek on Sunday failed. The Indiana Fraternal Order of Police did not respond to a request for comment.
In the messages, a person identified as Zacharek posted under the handle “Panzerleiter”, an apparent reference to the German tanks used in World War II.
In a message, he described himself as a 23-year-old former U.S. Army tank crew member and “garden conservative libertarian” who discovered a bulletin board at 4chan and became “fully NatSoc” – a reference to “National Socialism.”
He said he joined the forum because he wanted to engage in “higher-level fascist discourse” than was available on 4chan.
In a message about an ethnostat, he said that a country that allows “white immigration while denying smaller races is the most ideal and lasting solution.” In another, he offered anti-Semitic and racist stereotypes.
A study published last year by the Center for Investigative Reporting found that hundreds of active and retired police officers from across the United States were involved in extremist groups, including what it described as dozens of private hate groups operating on Facebook.
Journalists joined many of the groups and confirmed the identities of 400 officers, including one who participated in a group called “Ban the NAACP” and another who was in “The White Privilege Club.”
A 2015 classified FBI Counterterrorism Policy Guide obtained by Intercept found that white supremacists and other right-wing extremists maintain an “active presence” in U.S. law enforcement agencies.
An earlier FBI assessment said the groups had a “historic” interest in infiltrating the agencies.