Law enforcement officials explained what they can offer to those taking the oath:
“I have a wide variety of law enforcement experience including undercover operations, surveillance and SWAT,” wrote one on the membership application.
“Communications, Weapons, K9 Officer 12 Years to Present to the Local Sheriff’s Office,” wrote another.
“I am currently working as the deputy sheriff in Texas,” typed a third.
These men, who had sworn to uphold the law, were signing up to join an armed, extremist, anti-government group.
Oath keepers trade conspiracy theories and wild interpretations of the US Constitution. Its members have been involved in armed standoffs with the federal government. Some face accusations regarding his role in the January 6 uprising.
The statements are part of a larger collection of hacked data from the OAuth Keepers website. The data, some of which whistleblower group Distributed Denial of Secrets made available to journalists, includes a file that provides the names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses of nearly 40,000 members.
A search of that list revealed more than 200 people who identified themselves as active or retired law enforcement officers when they signed up. USA Today confirmed that 20 of them are still serving from Alabama to California. Another 20 have retired since joining the sworn defenders.
A man filling out the form claimed he was a federal police officer and once worked for the Defense Intelligence Agency.
These people are almost certainly a small fraction of the law enforcement officers who had joined the militia over the years, as the majority of those enlisted did not voluntarily provide information about their employment. The leaked data does not indicate whether the people on the list are now arrears-paying members.
Founded in 2009 by Yale Law School graduate Stewart Rhodes following the election of Barack Obama, Oath Keepers refuses to acknowledge the authority of the federal government. Members a. must follow Announcement Will refuse to implement orders full of conspiracy, including disarmament of the American people.
Rhodes has long claimed that the group, which experts believe is the largest unauthorized militia in the country, is primarily composed of active and retired law enforcement officers and military personnel.
Just one sworn guard serving in the police or sheriff’s department is too much, said Daryl Johnson, a security consultant and former senior analyst on domestic terrorism at the Department of Homeland Security.
“Swearers subscribe to anti-government conspiracy theories, so the fact that the officers belong to an organization that believes in this type of stuff really questions their conscience and their ability to make sound decisions.” ,” said Johnson.
More concerning is the fact that oath-takers administer oaths of allegiance to their members, much like the police and military, Johnson said. This creates a dangerous conflict of interest.
“They see the US government as an enemy,” he said. “When it comes to crisis situations or other militia-related investigations, where is this person’s allegiance? Most likely with the oath takers and not with the police department. “
Scott Dunn, who left the Oath Keepers board of directors in 2019 after a disagreement with Rhodes, said the group’s membership form asked people to list their relevant skills.
Rhodes “wanted to use that information as a searchable database, so we could punch in Oklahoma and it would show us all the different specialties around Oklahoma, or we could search for a specific type of skill.” and it would show which members had that skill,” he said.
Lieutenant James Holsinger of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Maryland is on the list. Holsinger is running for sheriff in the county, where Hagerstown is located.
He did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
On the form, Holsinger explicitly wrote that he “designed and implemented tactical rescue exercises” and “experienced with the classification of weapons (lethal and non-lethal).”
Officials from across the country attended the oath taking
Granthshala contacted dozens of active-duty and retired officers to ask why they joined those taking the oath. Most did not respond; Almost everyone who said they were no longer members. A retired marine and corrections officer said he still supports the group.
In 20 cases, law enforcement agencies or the men themselves confirmed that they were still employed there. Among the officials identified in the membership list are:
- An officer from the Louisville Metro Police Department who was involved in the shooting of an officer in 2018.
- A former US Army member who joined the New York Police Department and a former US Army captain who joined the Chicago Police Department. Both are still police officers there.
- An 80-year-old, part-time officer at the Ashley County Sheriff’s Office in Arkansas.
- A corrections officer in Riverside, Calif.
Major Eben Bracher, chief of operations for the Yuma County Sheriff’s Office in Arizona, is one of them. Bratcher told USA Today that he remembered receiving newsletters from the group “for a while”.
“I may have signed up years ago, but don’t remember any specifics,” Bratcher said. “I know I unsubscribed a while back due to the sheer volume of emails I received.”
When Bretcher signed up, he apparently wrote this note: “We have 85 sworn officers and border (K) from Mexico to the south and California to the west. I’ve already presented your web site to dozens of my deputies.” have make.”
Bratcher said he didn’t remember writing it. “It’s possible that I spoke to several people about the new organization,” he said.
Constable Joe Wright of Collin County, Texas, said he joined in 2012, when he was first running for office.
“To be honest, I felt pressure to get involved in this county for political support,” Wright said. “Swearers, you’ll get bad reviews if you don’t support them.”
Wright said he didn’t know much about the group at the time. He said he remembers receiving a box of oath-keeping materials, including brochures and stickers, after signing up. He said he tossed it in the trash and had not associated with the group since being elected to a county northeast of Dallas.
“I don’t support them,” Wright said. “I’m not a fanatic. I’m doing my job.”
Officials say they are no longer members
Several executives admitted to signing up but claimed that their membership expired long ago.
For example, Michael Lynch, an officer with the Anaheim Police Department in California, said he had joined the Oath Keepers several years ago, but did not renew his membership when he learned more about the group.
“I didn’t get anything out of it,” he said in an interview. “There was no local chapter or anything, so when it came time for the renovation I was like, I’m not going to send another $40.”
Lynch was the officer who claimed his undercover, surveillance and SWAT training.
“Obviously, we had no idea about this,” said Anaheim spokesman Sgt. Shane Carringer. “We’ll see what options we have as a department, considering what rights our officers have.”
always an extremist group, but recently more extreme
It’s not clear from the hacked data when the officers in question signed up. Oath Keepers experts said the militia has certainly changed since its inception in 2009.
Heidi Berich, co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, said that as a group during the Obama administration, it evolved into a more hateful and paranoid organization to fight what was seen as an overabundance of the federal government. Has happened. They have tracked down the oath-takers since their inception.
“Rhodes & Company has become a lot more radical,” Berich said.
Still, the Oath-Keepers were always an extremist group, she said. It was founded in futile and hateful conspiracy theories and always had anti-government leanings.
He and other experts said they were concerned about law enforcement officers becoming involved in oath-keeping at any time.
“I don’t think police officers should be involved with extremist groups,” Berich said. “You’re a part of the government, you represent the whole, community as a police officer, and obviously there’s a problem when you’re in a group that questions the right of the government to do those things.” doing what the government has the right to do.”
JJ McNab, a fellow of George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, said she understands how law enforcement officers could have been among those sworn in years ago without knowing much about it.
Anaheim official Lynch said he joined in 2016 after talking to recruiters at a booth at a gun show in Las Vegas. He said he thought he was an alternative to the National Rifle Association.
McNab buys it.
“People get into stuff all the time without any diligence,” she said. “And for years you could only do due diligence on the website of the Southern Poverty Law Center, and most police officers would immediately dismiss it as biased.”
For most Americans, joining those who keep the oath is an act protected by the First Amendment. But several Supreme Court cases have established that police departments impose broad limits on what their employees can say or write, and what organizations they belong to.
Most officers are under the misconception that the First Amendment gives them the right to say anything on social media or in public, said Valerie van Broecklin, a former federal prosecutor who trains police departments on using…