A police recruit in Lafayette, Indiana, was cut off after an anti-fascist flag his apparent connection 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 his Twitter account with a link to messages from the forum 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 Zacharek̵7;s comments are inconsistent with the spirit of cooperation and community integration valued by the Lafayette Police Department,” Flannelly said.
Zacharek was accepted by the department earlier this year and was “without exposure” to the public, Flannelly said. The statement added that it conducted a background check on Zacharek but did not find any forum connections in that process.
“We’re working hard to learn from this investigation to make sure it never happens again,” Flannelly said.
Attempts 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 man identified as Zacharek was posted under the handle “Panzerleiter,” a vivid reference to German tanks used in World War II.
In a message, he described himself as a 23-year-old former U.S. Army tanker and “garden variety conservative libertarian” who discovered a message board on the 4chan site and became a “full NatSoc” – a reference to “National Socialism.”
He said he joined the forum because he wanted to participate in “a higher level of fascist speech” than is available on 4chan.
In a message about an ethno-state, he said that a country that allows “white immigration while rejecting any lower races is the most perfect 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 group running on Facebook.
Reporters joined many of the groups and verified the identities of the 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 Intercept found that white supremacists and other right-wing extremists maintain an “active presence” in U.S. law enforcement agencies.
An earlier FBI analysis said the groups had “historical” interests infiltrated the agencies.