Springfield Police Department releases report on former officer
Aaron Nichols, who resigned from the Springfield Police Department this spring, will not be charged with misconduct. This was announced on Wednesday as the department released the findings of its months-long review.
Nichols quit the force after social media posts surfaced and the department began investigating.
Material released this week includes a review of Nichols’ work history, department policies and potential training that could prove beneficial. But that’s apparently where it will end.
“My office has determined that there is insufficient evidence to prove a criminal offense beyond a reasonable doubt or to conclude that Nichols committed official misconduct in the performance of his official duties. Accordingly, the Sangamon County State’s Attorney will not be filing charges at this time,” Wright said.
A Black Lives Matter Springfield social media post said its team is “currently reviewing” the report.
On the recommendation of the Springfield NAACP, Wright said he called on Sylvester Bush, former chief of the Peoria Park District Police and Cook County Forest Preserve, to independently analyze the handling of the case by his office.
SPD divisions including Internal Affairs, Training, Planning and Research, Archives, Criminal Investigations and Legal Affairs led the investigation into Nichols.
They discovered that a group called “Anonymous Comrades Collective” had conducted its own investigation into racist and discriminatory Twitter posts from several Twitter accounts.
The report says the group traced the various handles back to Nichols. A blog post was published on April 1, which launched the SPD’s response.
“Within 3 hours of learning of the existence of these messages, Nichols was sent to the Chief’s office for an informal investigation into the article…. In the presence of union representation, Nichols was questioned for whether the handles were associated with his Twitter account After an initial indication that he did not have a Twitter account, he eventually confirmed that over the past few years he had used all eight Twitter handles. informal inquiry.
Police said Nichols, an 18-year-old SPD veteran, was immediately notified of a formal internal affairs investigation and placed on unpaid administrative leave, including the immediate revocation of his police powers. He resigned on April 5.
Scarlette recommended to the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board that Nichols be removed from service as a police officer.
The review focused on Nichols’ City of Springfield email account. Posts containing various racial, ethnic and homophobic slurs were found.
Investigators also combed through traffic stop data involving Nichols and provided the following breakdown:
Data on traffic checks from 2012 to 2022 / 512 checks in total
- 70% white including 6% verbalized
- 28% black including 11% verbalized
- 1% Latino, of which 14% were ticketed
1% of Asians, including 14% with fines
Data on traffic stops from 2018 to 2022 / 129 stops in total
- 79% white including 14% verbalized
- 19% black including 4% verbalized
- 2% Latino, 0% received a ticket
The review found “no patterns based on obvious biases were identified based on the above sample size”.
Additionally, body-worn camera footage totaling over 132 hours was reviewed.
“The Planning and Research section identified 339 BWC videos that remained and were tagged with an indefinite status. Internal affairs lieutenants meticulously began reviewing each video with the goal of observing its interaction with citizens it came into contact with in the performance of its official duties to determine any observable bias,” it says. The report.
“All interactions between Nichols and the public, regardless of race, gender or status, appear to be professional. At no time did he display, exhibit, or perform his duties in a manner that would be defined as consistent with posts on Twitter.
Springfield Police said that after consultation with the Faith Coalition for the Common Good, the department implemented three separate questions in the background interview process for all potential SPD hires.
1. Have you ever belonged to, financially supported or received monetary funds from private individuals, groups, movements, organizations or associations, private or not, who hold racially oriented beliefs or support writings , ethnic, religious or sexual inferiority? Yes/No, If yes, please explain.
2. Have you ever assisted in distributing, teaching or recruiting or purchasing and/or distributing merchandise for or from private individuals, groups, movements, organizations or associations that hold the creed through settlements , activities, meetings, writings, social media platforms, online websites or teaching, online or in person anywhere, that endorse or support the belief of racial, ethnic, religious inferiority or sexual orientation? Yes/No, If yes, please explain.
3. Have you ever attended events, marches or meetings organized by private individuals, groups, organizations or associations that believe or support a racial, ethnic, religious or sexual orientation as inferior? Yes/No, If yes, please explain.
Senior SPD officials identified training that was administered across the department in September regarding implicit bias.
Senior managers also participated in a workshop dealing with extremism. Next year, additional training will focus on promoting respectful interactions between officers and the community, with the aim of enhancing police legitimacy and building community trust.
The ministry has also reached out to various groups to listen and receive feedback. These include:
- Springfield Jewish Federation
- Faith for Common Good Coalition
- Black Lives Matter – Springfield
- Resilient Brotherhood
- Springfield and Area Ministerial Alliance
- Springfield Urban League
- Community Health Roundtable
- Phoenix Center
Police also reported efforts to improve community engagement.
“In summary, the actions of former officer Aaron Nichols must never be repeated in the future of the SPD. However, this unacceptable display of discrimination cannot be classified. Rather, it will represent a wound that has been dealt with properly with discipline, transparency, training, community support, conversations, and forgiveness,” Scarlette wrote. “This wound will eventually heal. It will be this scar that will propel our agency forward, providing visible awareness of a brief valley, but also of the difficult road our agency has embarked on to heal and recover. All of this can only be possible with the support of the citizens of this great community.
“Using a partial quote from the great President Abraham Lincoln, ‘With no malice to any, with charity to all…..’, this agency strives to be better together alongside the citizens of Springfield.”