A police recruit in Lafayette, Indiana, was fired after an anti-fascist flagged 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 was alerted to Zacharek’s posts on Friday, when a self-described anti-fascist tagged its Twitter account with a link to messages from the forum that were posted on a site called “ironmarch exposed.”
The department opened an investigation and determined that the messages were accurate and credible, the statement said.
“Officer Zacharek’s comments were not in harmony with the spirit of cooperation and inclusion in the community 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 hadn’t found any connections to the forum during that process.
“We endeavor to learn from this investigation to ensure it never happens again,” Flannelly said.
Efforts to reach Zacharek on Sunday were unsuccessful. 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 one message, he described himself as a 23-year-old former tank crewman in the U.S. Army and “garden variety conservative libertarian” who discovered a message board on the site 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 one message about an ethno-state, he said that a country allowing “white immigration while denying any lesser races is the most ideal and lasting solution.” In another, he offered anti-Semitic and racist stereotypes.
An investigation published last year by the Center for Investigative Reporting found that hundreds of active and retired law enforcement officers from across the United States were involved in extremist groups, including what it described as dozens of private hate groups that operate on Facebook.
The reporters joined many of the groups and verified 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 classified FBI Counterterrorism Policy Guide from 2015 obtained by the 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 “historical” interest in infiltrating the agencies.