CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- A Chesterfield Police officer serving as a School Resource Officer at L.C. Bird High School has been removed from his position, suspended, and recommended for termination after claims that he is affiliated with a white supremacist group called Identity Evropa.
Police have not publicly named the officer, but an email to parents at L.C. Bird High School said "two school resource officers will rotate at our school to assist with coverage for the foreseeable future," in light of the officer's suspension.
Identity Evropa is a group "interested in preserving Western culture," according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Identity Evropa members helped organize the deadly 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, the SPLC added.
"I couldn’t believe it," exclaimed 11th grader Lnya Carpenter when she learned the news.
Chesterfield Police Chief Col. Jeffrey Katz responded to the claims in a statement Monday morning.
"We are concerned and committed to determining if there is any truth to these allegations," he wrote. "There is absolutely no place for intolerance or prejudicial behavior in public service, and we will not tolerate affiliations which even remotely lend themselves to predispositions of bias."
Monday afternoon, Chesterfield Police spokesperson Liz Caroon, released a statement saying the officer has been suspended and recommended for termination by Chief Col. Katz.
“At this point, the officer in question has been removed from his position as a School Resource Officer and has been administratively suspended from the police department pending a recommendation from Col. Jeffrey Katz for termination,” Caroon wrote.
"Before the officer’s employment may be terminated, the police department must follow the Law Enforcement Officers Procedural Guarantee Act, which is part of the Code of Virginia. In accordance with this state code, which you can find here, the officer shall be notified in writing of 'all charges, the basis therefor, and the action which may be taken.' Then, the officer has the opportunity to respond to the charges; the officer has at least five calendar days to respond unless he agrees to a shorter time period."
Principal of L.C. Bird High School Adrienne Blanton sent the following email to parents:
"This individual was not an employee of Chesterfield County Public Schools. However, the alleged behavior, if proven accurate, is abhorrent and is not reflective of the ideals or values that we expect demonstrated within our school community"
"The Chesterfield Police Department has shared with our school division that they have developed a plan to ensure that we have continued support for our school safety efforts. Two school resource officers will rotate at our school to assist with coverage for the foreseeable future.
We stand in support of our school community, and will continue to work to create an inclusive learning environment for all students."
LC Bird 12th grade student Camryn Wilson said Monday afternoon she wasn't aware the school resource officer was suspended.
"It's hurtful to figure out somebody working for our school feels that way and is working towards something like that," Wilson stated. "As a school -- as a community -- we shouldn’t really entertain stuff like that especially for somebody that’s working for us that’s keeping us safe."
She added, "You don’t really know what people do behind closed doors."
Jonathan Zur, President and CEO of Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities, explained there's history with known hate groups who seek power.
"Groups that want to promote a particular message, in this case of hate and divisiveness, are trying to make sure that they have positions of influence," Zur said. "Hate groups have a lot of strategies infiltrating institutions."
Zur expected Col. Katz and other police departments to re-examine their entire staffs in light of the accusations.
"The police department needs to spend some time looking in the mirror thinking about, if proven true, how was this is something that was able to slip through the cracks," he explained.
The fact that the accused officer was positioned so close to children worried Zur.
"I think there’s some additional concern around this being a school resource officer -- having influence where they are around young people and having some power over children in this situation," he said.
The alleged affiliation of the Chesterfield Police Officer with Identity Evropa was brought to light by the same group who raised concerns about a Virginia Capitol Police sergeant's alleged ties to white nationalist groups.
The Capitol Police sergeant was placed on paid administrative leave following as Capitol Police investigated whether he violated division policy. When asked for a status update on the investigation, a Capitol Police spokesperson said the sergeant was still on leave.
This is a developing story.