SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — An internal investigation released Wednesday found no discriminatory behavior while on the clock for a Springfield police officer who admitted to writing bigoted social media posts.
Former Springfield police officer Aaron Nichols resigned in April after an anonymous blog outed him as a Neo-Nazi and posted screenshots from several anonymous twitter accounts linked to Nichols. He did not deny the accounts were his before resigning.
“The actions of former officer Aaron Nichols must not ever be repeated in the storied future of the SPD,” Springfield Police Chief Ken Scarlette said of the investigation. “However, this unconscionable display of discrimination cannot be filed away. Rather it will represent a wound that has been treated properly with discipline, transparency, training, community support, conversations, and forgiveness.”
The investigation combed through all available body camera footage of Nichols, as well as traffic stops and arrest records. They could not find a racial bias in his arrest records or traffic stops, and found no misconduct on his body camera footage.
The department also combed through his work email, messages, and computer hard drive, searching for keywords Nichols often used in his posts. They only found emails sent to his work email from right-wing publications like The Beltway Report and Patriot Nation News.
Due to state laws on storing government data, the investigation was limited on how much they could search about Nichols. The investigation could only review 2 years of body camera footage and 15 months of emails.
Sangamon County State’s Attorney Dan Wright said his office is not pursuing any action against Nichols. The Sangamon County State’s Attorney also volunteered for an independent review by a former police officer recommended by the Springfield NAACP.
To ensure they don’t hire another officer like Nichols, the department is adding more training around managing implicit bias of officers. Springfield Police has also added more questions in their hiring process asking applicants if they’ve ever identified with a group that believes in inferiority of a racial, ethnic, religious or sexual orientation group.
The Vice President of a group against extremism in law enforcement views Springfield Police Department’s handling of the investigation as a model for other agencies.
“I want to thank Chief Scarlette for engaging in a topic that is often difficult to address,” Heidi Beirich, the co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, said. “His transparency and honesty will be a help to many others in law enforcement and the communities they serve.”