It’s estimated to be a movement 300,000 strong across the nation with anti-government beliefs and tendencies for violence. But, unfortunately, many police officers know little about the sovereign citizen movement and haven’t received sufficient training to identify and protect themselves against this domestic terrorism group.
However, it’s an issue that has garnered some attention lately. Last night, I watched a segment of ABC’s Nightline about the sovereign citizen movement. The first thing that struck me was who makes up this group. During a meeting of sovereign citizens in Tampa, Florida, the diversity was astounding and far different than what I expected. The group was made up of middle-class men and women, white and black, who were educated and financially successful people, according to the broadcast. But they all held very anti-government sentiments and talked about the government being out of control and oppressing its citizens. While people in this group said they were largely non-violent (except one guy who said he had guns and would use them if necessary), this movement has a history of violence.
The newscast pointed to well-known sovereign citizens like Terry Nichols, who led the Oklahoma City bombing and Joe Stack who flew his plane into the IRS building in Austin, Texas in 2010. But a lesser known attack by sovereign citizens was that of Jerry Kane and his 16-year-old son Joseph Kane, who killed two police officers during a routine traffic stop in Arkansas in 2010. One of those officers killed was Sergeant Brandon Paudert, whose father is Police Chief Bob Paudert. Paudert was interviewed on Nightline and said that before his son was shot, he had never heard the term “sovereign citizen” although he had heard about their anti-government activities.
In this article, Chief Paudert says that the federal government isn’t doing enough to share information about the threats of this group with the law enforcement community, so in September 2011 he quit his job and began traveling around the country to speak with law enforcement groups about sovereign citizens. “It gives me satisfaction knowing we’re saving lives so that other families won’t have to go through this,” he told Nightline.
Has your department done any training about sovereign citizens?
What should every law enforcement officer know about recognizing and dealing with individuals who belong to this group?
To spread the information to more officers, Chief Paudert has started hosting training Webinars. You can register for upcoming April 16 and April 23 webinars here.
As a preview, here’s a video from the Chief about his experience and what law enforcement should know about this anti-government and potentially dangerous group: