A law enforcement officer needs to take safety precautions when dealing with
situations involving members of extremist groups or movements. Sometimes the
officer will be lucky enough to know in advance that he or she will be
encountering such individuals, but this is not always the case. Many such
encounters are unplanned and spontaneous; moreover, extremists are unlikely to
explicitly identify themselves to officers as belonging to fringe movements or
However, perceptive officers may often be able to detect visual and verbal
clues that help them recognize that the person with whom they are dealing may
adhere to an extreme ideology. These identifiers, especially if several are
recognized, can act as important warning indicators.
It must be stressed that extremist identifiers should be used only to alert
officers to take safety precautions. They are not indicators of criminal
activity and should not be treated as such.
Visible extremist identifiers are often observed on motor vehicles and may be
noticed at a personís residence as well. Verbal identifiers may present
themselves during conversations with such persons.
Vehicles belonging to extremists often display clues as to the ideological
convictions of their owners or drivers. These include, but are not limited to,
the following identifiers.
Bogus license plates or driverís licenses. Many anti-government
extremists do not believe the government has the right to require items such as
license plates or driverís licenses. Some even view such items as
"contracts," the use of which implies consent to the authority of the
government. As a result, many extremists create their own license plates, either
to make a political statement or simply to fool law enforcement officers. These
homemade plates range from crude cardboard plates sporting terms such as
"Militia" or "UCC1-207" to realistic looking metal plates
with fictitious countries on them such as "Washitaw Nation" or
"British West Indies." Many extremists may also have fake vehicular
documents such as bogus licenses and registrations. Another identifier that
sometimes appears on driverís licenses is the use of strange phrases or
abbreviations following someoneís signature. Common terms used in this way
include "UCC1-207" and "TDC" (the former indicates that they
are not giving up their rights by signing; the latter indicates that they have
signed under "threat, duress, or coercion"). Similarly, the complete
absence of plates, license and registration might also be a sign.
Bumper stickers, placards, stickers. Many people use bumper stickers
to indicate their political or cultural beliefs. Extremists will often do this
to an unusual degree, displaying so many that they turn their vehicles into what
some call "ideology-mobiles." They might also have offensive or simply
very unusual bumper stickers, such as "White Power" or "Americans
Donít Wear U.N. Blue."
Unusual modifications to their vehicle. Officers should pay
attention to strange or unusual modifications to vehicles. Some extremists have
been known to turn the whole tailgate of their pickup truck into the equivalent
of a huge bumper sticker; others paint their vehicles with homemade camouflage
patterns. Some vehicles may even display warnings to "government
agents." Any drastic and odd modification to a vehicle, especially in order
to express some political view, ought to be a warning sign.
Just as extremists sometimes adorn their vehicles with items that serve as
warning signs to law enforcement, they can also do the same to their residences.
Officers who approach such homes or apartments should be appropriately careful.
Signs directed at law enforcement. Some extremists display
"No Trespassing" signs on their property that are noticeably different
from normal "No Trespassing" signs: they are directed specifically at
law enforcement officers or government agents. Sometimes these notices are
homemade, but several places sell manufactured versions of these signs. Officers
have also observed signs and placards that included warnings to burglars that
the residence is protected by the "militia."
Unusual banners or flags. Obviously, Klan flags, Nazi flags,
"white power" flags, and similarly blatant displays serve as clear
warning signs. Sometimes, however, the banners or flags may be a little more
subtle. Extremists may display a sign with a red line through a United Nations
logo or an upside down American flag. An upside down flag is traditionally a
sign of distress and extremists sometimes use it to indicate that the country is
Signs of "fortification." Some extremists go so far as to turn
their residences into miniature fortresses. They may reinforce walls, store
weapons in every room of a house, or in other ways prepare for some sort of
violent conflict. Many such measures will not be visible from the outside,
although some might be. Boarded up windows in an occupied house, slits that
could be used to fire weapons through, cleared "fields of fire," metal
plating on wallsóthese are all possible signs of homemade fortifications.
Conversation with extremists, particularly during situations such as traffic
stops in which an extremist might contest an officerís authority, may provide
clues to officers that they are dealing with a member of an extremist group or
The extremists who are most likely to offer identifying verbal clues are
those involved in anti-government movements or groups. Members of such groups
have evolved a wide variety of verbal and other tactics to use against police
officers during traffic stops.
Asking for "Oath of Office." Some anti-government extremists
will demand to see a law enforcement officerís "oath of office."
Some may demand to see other documents during a traffic stop such as
Giving particular documents to officers. Some extremists have produced
warnings, questionnaires, and other items designed to be handed to police
officers who have pulled the extremist over. These include special "Miranda
Warnings" for officers as well as "Public Servants
Questionnaires" that list more than twenty leading questions officers are
ostensibly supposed to answer and sign their name to. People who ask that
officers read or sign certain documents before agreeing to speak or answer
questions may be giving verbal clues that they adhere to extreme ideologies.
Unusual/Inapplicable references to Bible/Constitution. Many
anti-government extremists have developed elaborate religious or political
justifications for why they can ignore traffic laws and regulations. A person
without a valid driverís license or registration who gives unusual Biblical or
Constitutional rationalizations for his or her actions, such as "this Bible
is my driverís license," may be identifying themselves with verbal clues.
Use of strange/pseudolegal language. Members of extreme anti-government
groups believe in a plethora of unusual pseudolegal theories. Officers who are
subjected to a torrent of language about the Uniform Commercial Code,
"martial law," "emergency war powers," the common law, or
similar topics should consider it as a warning sign.
Contesting authority or jurisdiction. Many extremists will simply tell an
officer who has pulled them over or is at their front door that the officer
simply has no authority or jurisdiction over them. Members of extremist groups
are often taught to refuse to roll down windows for officers, or only to roll
windows down an inch. Extremists may demand that an officer provide some sort of
"proof of jurisdiction" before the extremist will cooperate.