An Illinois police officer who spent 18 years patrolling the state capital resigned Tuesday after researchers connected him to a series of violent, racist, and antisemitic social media posts.
Anonymous Comrades Collective, a group of anti-fascist researchers, identified Aaron Paul Nichols, 46, as the author of the posts late last week.
In one, Nichols stated, “Hitler did nothing wrong.” In another, he wrote: “If I found a genie and I had one wish? The jews would be a distant memory within 72 hours.”
The Springfield Police Department launched an investigation into Nichols last Friday. On Tuesday, the Sangamon County State’s Attorney office began an internal review of the cases in which Nichols was involved, and Springfield Police Chief Ken Scarlette announced that he had begun the process to decertify Nichols as an officer.
In addition to serving as a municipal police officer—a fact he freely told followers on social media—Nichols also served in the National Guard for 20 years.
Last year, an internal FBI report stated that white supremacists and right-wing extremists “very likely seek affiliation with military and law enforcement entities” to further their ideologies and goals. Some right-wing extremist groups have already been doing just that: The far-right Oath Keepers specifically recruits from law enforcement and military communities. A Right Wing Watch report identified 15 law enforcement officers—some actively employed by law enforcement entities, and some retired—who are being charged with federal crimes for attacking the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. 2021.
A 2019 project to look at the Facebook accounts of police officers illustrates why white supremacist and right-wing extremist groups might recruit from law enforcement. The Plain View Project examined the Facebook accounts of about 2,900 current officers and 600 retired officers from eight departments across the country. What Philadelphia lawyer Emily Baker-White found was troubling: About 1 in 5 of the current officers and 2 in 5 of the retired officers, had posts that applauded violence, scoffed at due process, or used dehumanizing language.
In posts uncovered by Anonymous Comrades Collective, Paul self-identified as being racist, homophobic, and antisemitic. He expressed his explicit approval of genocide, writing on Gab, “I am a supporter of as many holocausts as it takes to cleanse this world of talmudic influence.”
In other posts, he frequently used the N-word.
“N****s ruin everything,” he wrote in one post. In another, he wrote, “I frequently deal with a basketball American who is related to a pro basketball American. Dude parks a $200,000 car in the drive of a $60,000 house. N*****s are so fucking dumb.”
He wrote that the vigilante killers of Ahmaud Arbery—a Black man who was on jogging when he was chased and murdered by three white men—“did nothing wrong,” adding that they were only charged “because of Jews.”
At one point, he wrote under the Gab handle “@_14words_,” referring to the Neo-Nazi slogan “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White children.”
In a Twitter post, he wrote, “I’m a n***** harm reduction specialist and we have minimum manning requirements. Someone has to clean these streets.”
He also made a series of homophobic statements, using slurs and troubling false narratives about gay people. “F***** don’t reproduce, they recruit,” he stated in one post.
The Springfield Police department told HuffPost that Nichols resigned Tuesday and did not meet with the department’s investigators.