SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WICS/WRSP) — Aaron Nichols, an 18-year veteran of the Springfield Police Department, resigned Tuesday after he was reportedly linked to years worth of racist, homophobic, and antisemitic social media posts.
Springfield Police Chief Ken Scarlette confirms Nichols "did not dispute" the accusations made against him when he resigned ahead of a meeting with internal investigators.
The situation was a main focus of Tuesday's city council meeting, with multiple aldermen calling for action.
The investigation into Nichols will continue despite the fact that he's now resigned.
We've seen it before where officers leave Springfield police and go work in another town or village, but officials say Nichols should not be allowed to wear a badge again.
Dozens of police officers lined the walls of Springfield's city council meeting Tuesday, a silent statement that the hatred and bigotry displayed by a former officer will not be tolerated.
"Every employee should believe the same thing, because if they don't, I said it back then, they should not be working or living in the city of Springfield. And I believe that to my core," said Mayor Jim Langfelder at the meeting.
Before his resignation, Nichols was placed on unpaid leave and stripped of his authority--something department leaders say is rare.
Scarlette says he wants to make sure Nichols never wears a badge again.
"I have proactively contacted the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board to seek decertification, as he should not serve in law enforcement capacity again," Scarlette said.
The Board is a state agency tasked with maintaining a high level of professional standards for law enforcement and correctional officers.
Scarlette says the future of Nichols's certification now rests solely with that agency.
As for the department's next steps, Scarlette says the department is now auditing Nichols's department-issued computer to determine if it was used for these posts or while he was on duty.
Sangamon County State's Attorney Dan Wright says his office is also looking through cases Nichols was involved in.
Teresa Haley with the Springfield NAACP supports these moves, but is also calling for further action.
"I want his pension to be taken because if it was one of us, we would lose our jobs and we would lose our pension," Haley said. "Something has to be done to send a clear message to this individual and others who have like minds that this is unacceptable and will not be tolerated."
Scarlette says the department will continue their trainings in cultural competency and investigate all claims of such hatred that are brought to his attention.
Springfield leaders say this isn't the first racism issue the department has faced, and that now is the time to shut it down for good.
"I just think we need to be very in the moment here, and do the work that needs to be done, to make sure we root out any sort of hate that's in the Springfield Police Department," said Ward 6 Alderwoman Kristin DiCenso. "We can't have it."
Nichols is still entitled to his pension at this time.
Illinois law says that someone's pension cannot be taken away unless they're convicted of a felony in connection with their service.
This is the excerpt of that law:
None of the benefits herein provided for shall be paid to any person who is convicted of any felony relating to or arising out of or in connection with his or her service as a member.
The massive criminal justice reform bill passed last year revamps how law enforcement must handle decertifications.
A state board will soon be able to decertify an officer who is found to be engaging in unethical or unprofessional conduct.
That part of the law goes into effect this summer.