By Charlie De Mar

CHICAGO (CBS) — Serious concerns have been raised over Illinois police officers with ties to right wing extremist groups.

CBS 2’s Charlie De Mar investigated whether the officers’ beliefs in conspiracy theories affect their police work.

Meantime the Chicago Police Department and COPA are investigating a Chicago officer spotted wearing an extremist face mask while working a protest last weekend.

About 90 miles southwest of Chicago sitting on 12 square miles with a population around 10,000 is Lasalle.

Local radio station 103.9 WLPO recently took some time to talk about a photo. The men in the picture identify themselves online as Lasalle police officers Matthew Kunkel and Mark Manicki. Both officers say they attended the re-open Illinois rally in Springfield.

They were apparently off at duty at the time, wearing vests with the letter Q, which stands for QAnon. The Anti-Defamation League’s David Goldenberg describes QAnon as a far right extremist conspiracy theory.

“Driven largely by right wing extremists and also some common supporters of President Trump,” said Goldenberg.

They have a wide ranging set of beliefs.

“Based largely on the idea the government is run by a cabal of pedophiles who ultimately President Trump will overcome or take out,” he said.

Manicki’s social media is filled with conspiracy theories on everything from George Floyd’s death to the coronavirus.

“It kind of terrifies me to be honest,” said Paiziah Chounard with Black Lives Matter Illinois Valley.

Chounard is one of the founders of the Illinois valley’s Black Lives Matter. She has seen the pictures of two officers wearing these vests, raising the concern for Chounard that even though they were off duty in the photos, their policing when back in uniform could be impacted by conspiracy beliefs.

“Just putting on a badge doesn’t change who you are as a person,” she said. “I think it could definitely affect how they perform their duties.”

“When we are dealing with law enforcement and public officials it’s important to make sure how those personal views come into play when they are performing their duties,” Goldenberg said. 

Goldenberg doesn’t argue that these officers can’t attend rallies and believe whatever they wish, but it should not spill into their work as an officer.

“Law enforcement higher ups and supervisors need to be watching this and aware of this and make sure it doesn’t have an impact on how somebody performs his or her job,” he said.

Lasalle Mayor Jeff Grove said in an email in part, “It would be hypocritical for me to pick and choose what causes people can support. Plus I don’t have that authority, nor would I believe in it.”

Charlie De Mar