LAFAYETTE, Ind. — A northwestern Indiana police recruit found himself unemployed less than 24 hours after his department was notified about the officer’s involvement in a neo-Nazi online chat forum.
The Lafayette Police Department launched an investigation into Joseph Zacharek, who was hired in June, after being notified Friday night via Twitter of his possible participation in a chat forum called Iron March in 2016, ABC News reported.
In a news release issued Saturday, Lafayette Chief of Police Patrick Flannelly stated the department’s internal affairs division concluded the social media tip was “accurate and credible,” resulting in Zacharek’s immediate termination.
“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 stated in the news release.
According to the Lafayette Journal & Courier, Iron March was disbanded on 2017, but the forum’s posts were leaked online in 2019.
Among the 2016 Iron Watch posts attributed to Zacharek was one questioning “the vile ‘culture’ of the African” and his personal conclusion that “everything I had been taught on race had been a flimsy fabrication which was not supported by real world evidence.” Meanwhile, the Iron Watch biography attributed to Zacharek also notes an interest in “(National Socialist) economics as a way of throwing off the chains of usury and Jewish owned banking,” the newspaper reported.
Flannelly told the Journal & Courier that Zacharek admitted to his superiors the online comments attributed to him on the forum were his. He was fired by noon the following day.
Flannelly also told the newspaper that the incident has prompted a review of the department’s background check process because “very thorough and complete background investigations” are performed on all recruits – including a review of all social media activity by recruits – but no red flags were detected when investigating Zacharek.
“I know the question everyone will have is, how does something like this get missed in a background investigation? How is it possible, and how do we prevent this from ever happening again? I’m not going to sugarcoat this. Ultimately, it’s my responsibility. We missed it,” Flannelly told the Journal & Courier.
A Lafayette Police Department news release, issued when Zacharek and two other recruits were introduced as new hires in June, stated he is an Edwards, New York-native who attended Penn State University and served three years as a tank crewman in the U.S. Army.
In a 2019 essay, the Southern Poverty Law Center called Iron March, which at one point counted 1,653 users, an “influential gathering place for young neo-Nazis and neo-fascists who eyed the Western world with intentions of triggering race war on a global scale.”