MELROSE PARK, Ill. (CBS) — On-duty, they are police officers who took an oath to enforce the law.
Off-duty, they formed a motorcycle club that looks like it supports outlaw biker gangs.
And as Pam Zekman reports with the Better Government Association, law enforcement officials say they can’t do both.
The Outlaws, an infamous motorcycle club known for violence used to protect its turf.
But when Melrose Park Police Sgt Nunzio Maiello founded the Reapers motorcycle club in 2005 he “actually reached out to the outlaws,a motorcycle club that’s been labeled a criminal enterprise by the justice department, to essentially ask permission to ride so there wouldn’t be any altercations,” said BGA Investigator Andy Shaw.
The Reapers also wore patches saying support the Outlaws. Not a good idea says an ATF agent who infiltrated criminal biker clubs.
“That signifies that they’re affiliated with or aligned with the Outlaws,” said the agent.
Then there’s the Reapers name and logo similar to the Grim Reapers, involved in everything from “drug distribution to violent beatings, home invasions, rapes and bombings,” said the ATF agent.
At least six Melrose park cops joined the Reapers despite all the controversial images.
A problem for David Bradford former president of the Illinois Association of Police Chiefs.
“If I raise my hand and I say to the public I swear to uphold the United States constitution, the laws of the community in which I live, and then I turn around and go out and I affiliate myself with an organization that is openly against what I held up my hand and swore to you. “How can you do that?” said Bradford.
Bradford says a bar fight at Josephine’s Bar in Villa Park underscores the conflict.
A Villa Park Police report describes the battery of an off-duty Villa Park fireman allegedly hit and injured by a group of Reapers including Melrose Park Cops.
“The conflict was my responsibility as a police officer to preserve the peace,” said Bradford.
Melrose Park prohibits police from engaging in conduct that is unbecoming for an office or reflects unfavorably on the department.
CBS 2 showed Melrose Park Police Chief Sam Pitassi the findings
“I was deeply disturbed by it. This is not the image we want to portray,” he said.
“Do you want to be in a motorcycle club or do to want to be a policeman?”
Late last week, the cops disbanded the Reapers. Sgt Maiello told his chief they never intended to give a negative impression to the public. He said, they intended to have a drug and crime free club that promoted motorcycle safety.
The Reapers told CBS 2 they were not affiliated with the Outlaws, but wore the patches for protection. There were no charges in the bar fight because the firefigher would not press charges.
CBS 2 found no evidence that they violated any laws.
For more information on the BGA go to www.bettergov.org