Student Opinion: Indiana Neo-Nazi Police Recruit Reveals Faults In Policing

(ZDNet)

By Liam Benedict

I, along with most of America, was shocked and appalled upon hearing the news from Indiana. In June of this year, a man named Joseph Zacharek was hired to be a recruit police officer for the city of Lafayette, Indiana. 

Recently, however, on Oct. 17, Zacharek was fired after a self-titled “Anti-Fascist” Twitter user revealed that the former officer used to post on a now-defunct neo-Nazi site known as Iron March. 

This event perfectly highlights a frequent complaint from the public as of late: The surprisingly low standards for who can become a police officer in America –– one of the many problems with our current policing system.

The neo-Nazi forum Iron March was disturbingly popular. Its negative impact on the world is more than clear as ZDnet reports: “This website is the birthplace of two of today’s most extreme far-right neo-nazi movements — the Atomwaffen Division and SIEGE Culture — with the first being accused of orchestrating at least eight murders around the world.” 

The forum was suddenly disbanded in 2017, without a clear understanding as to why. Some think that the site was shut down to avoid run-ins with law enforcement; others believe it was taken down by hackers. 

Regardless, not all the evidence of their hateful activity was erased. 

In 2019, all of the website’s posts, private messages and user data were leaked by an anonymous hacker, who posted the information on the Internet Archive for all to see. Of the 3,548 leaked user accounts, one of them belonged to Zacharek, who began posting on the forum in 2016.

Going by the screen name “Panzerleiter,” Zacharek mentioned that before he came to the site, he was a “garden variety conservative libertarian,” reports CNN. But after becoming an EMT, he began to “openly question the view that all races are equal.” 

I don’t need to explain why such an attitude is horribly dangerous for anyone to have, especially an up and coming police officer. The Lafayette police department said he had no exposure to the public yet, but this is hardly comforting. 

The idea of what this officer could have gone on to do is absolutely terrifying and should be a wake-up call to all Americans that this mentality is still ingrained in the policing systems of America. 

What’s even more frightening is that without this online activist’s work, this case would have just slipped through the cracks. After all, the Lafayette Police Department ran a supposedly comprehensive background check on him, including an examination of his social media profiles. 

However, the Chief of the Lafayette Police Department (LPD) stated that they were “not sure they were into the dark web or whatever this was.” This statement alone shows how ill-equipped and even uneducated the police are when it comes to these newfound internet problems.

The police’s current social media background checks apparently can’t track down posts written by their own recruits, such as Zacharek’s posts where he questioned “the vile ‘culture’ of the African and learned that everything I had been taught on race had been a flimsy fabrication.” 

Some of the only positives are that the police were able to respond quickly, firing Zacharek 24 hours after they were notified on Twitter about the discovery. And for the most part, the Chief accepted full responsibility for this mistake.  

Journal and Courier let the Chief explain it in his own words: “I’ve always been very confident that our process would catch that. And it didn’t…We’re going to have to go back to the drawing board and deal directly with our screening process. This is unacceptable.” 

I do pity the LPD in a way, after all, no one is accusing them of purposefully missing this information. But in a post-George Floyd world, we cannot be complacent when it comes to the hiring of officers. For the Lafayette Police Department’s sake, as well as that of the American people, I hope that their promise to do better holds true for all police officers in the US. 


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