By MAUREEN ROSE
Gold Standard Acting Editor
More than 100 law enforcement officers, or LEOs, from 33 city, county, state and federal agencies congregated on Fort Knox last week.
There wasn’t any bomb scare or terrorist threat; just the opposite. The officers were attending training that was available to them, thanks to the partnerships Fort Knox has with the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the office of the U.S. Attorney’s Western District of Kentucky, the Kentucky Intelligence Fusion Center, the Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet, and the Regional Organized Crime Information Center.
“This is the second year we’ve had their assistance,” said Lt. Ron Reyna, training officer for the Fort Knox Directorate of Emergency Services. “We couldn’t have had this training without their help.”
The officers represented agencies from all over Kentucky, but the Louisville Metro Police Department and Elizabethtown Police were the largest contingents.
The training—known as SLATT (for State and Local AntiTerrorism Training)—was aimed to educate law enforcement officers about a loose movement of U.S. citizens who call themselves sovereign citizens. While their ideology varies, most agree on one central point: the U.S. government is operating outside its jurisdiction, therefore, the citizens do not recognize federal, state or local laws, policies, or regulations. Most refuse to pay taxes or register their vehicles.
The concern for LEOs is that the group is growing in number as well as violence. To avoid paying taxes and being stopped for traffic infractions, many sovereign citizens make fake license plates.
The seminar’s keynote speaker was Bob Paudert, a retired police chief from West Memphis, Ark. His son, also a police officer, was killed when he encountered sovereign citizens on what should have been a routine traffic stop; the car’s two occupants opened fire with automatic weapons. The sovereign citizens were eventually killed in a shoot-out with police.
Because some of the sovereign citizens cite old English law as the only bona fide legal system, they have memorized some Olde English responses to use in the event they are stopped by officers. Their replies are so stilted and archaic, Reyna said officers are often fooled into believing the sovereigns are actually foreigners with diplomatic immunity.
Sovereign citizens generally refuse to appear in court, which represents the government they claim has no authority and which they will not obey. Some go a step beyond ignoring the law by filing frivolous lawsuits to clog the courts, and, in some cases, profit from the very legal system they repudiate.
According to the FBI website, six LEOs have been killed by sovereign citizens since 2000. Local concern has grown as it appears the groups are actively recruiting followers in Kentucky. While the sovereign are not technically a militia, their encounters with law enforcement are met more and more often with violence. The FBI considers sovereign-citizen extremists as comprising a domestic terrorist movement. The group has existed for decades; Terry Nichols, a participant in the Oklahoma City bombing, is one of the better known members. For more information, visit the web site at http://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/
Different factions of the group have various ideologies, some fairly harmless, others not so much. Reyna said a Moorish splinter group offers to provide diplomatic credentials and apply for citizenship to the “Moorish nation” on behalf of those sovereign citizens who pay a few for the service. Some use their ideology as justification for defrauding the government and others of millions.
The 8-hour seminar focused on officer safety and education to help law enforcement recognize the sovereign citizens or their tactics.
Reyna advised the public to notify the Kentucky office of Homeland Security if they become aware of sovereign citizen activity by calling (502) 564-2081; your identity can be protected if necessary.
“We are aware of this group and stand firm on installation security,” Reyna said.