Chief Patrick Flannelly of the Lafayette, Indiana, Police Dept., on Saturday issued the following press release:
Late Friday evening the Lafayette Police Department was “tagged” in a tweet on our official Twitter page. It contained information specifically identifying a recruit officer, Joseph Zacharek, as a person who participated in a Neo-Nazi internet chat forum known as Iron March in 2016.
Our Internal Affairs Division opened an immediate investigation to determine if this report was credible. The investigation has determined that Zacharek did participate in this online forum and that the information that was provided to LPD was accurate and credible. Officer Zacharek’s comments were not in harmony with the spirit of cooperation and inclusion in the community that the Lafayette Police Department values.
Officer Zacharek was hired in June of 2020 and to this point has been working solely in a training environment and has no exposure to the public. As a result of this investigation Officer Zacharek’s employment with the Lafayette Police Department has been terminated.
The Lafayette Police Department conducts very thorough and complete background investigations on all potential employees, which includes a complete review of personal social media accounts. While this information may not have been accessible through our investigative processes, we are appreciative that it was brought to our attention. We take great pride in our investigations and are extremely disappointed that we were not able to uncover this information in that process. We endeavor to learn from this investigation to ensure it never happens again.
Flannelly told the Journal&Courier that missing Zacharek’s neo-Nazi posts “was a gut punch.”
Nevertheless, on Monday, according to the Journal&Courier, Lafayette PD was still hard pressed to come up with a reasonable explanation as to how they hired an officer in June after his neo-Nazi posts had been uncovered a year earlier.
According to Lafayette Police Deputy Chief Brad Bishop, Zacharek passed through the Lafayette police screening, including a polygraph exam. Both the written tests and the lie-detecting tests include questions designed to detect racist candidates in a would-be officer.
“We’re doing everything we can to move forward to make sure we do have the training to make sure we do do our best and do our due diligence,” Bishop said in a Monday press conference. “I’m not making excuses or try to rationalize this. This was a mistake, and we’re going to do our best to make sure it’s not repeated.”
Asked, “What are you doing to ensure there are no further Nazis at LPD?” Bishop replied, “If any information that would indicate that any of our officers hold those types of beliefs, we are going to investigate it immediately and aggressively.”