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 Officer Safety and Extremists: An Overview for Law Enforcement Officers
Why Are Extremists a Safety Concern?
Common Officer Safety Situations Involving Extremists
Extremist Identifiers
Defusing and Safety Techniques
Extremist Identifiers

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 groups.

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.

Vehicular Identifiers

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.

Residential Identifiers

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 in distress.

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.

Verbal Identifiers

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 movement.

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 "arrest warrants."

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.

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Officer Safety Bulletins
•  Deadly Domains: Standoffs with Extremists
•  Traffic Stops Involving Extremists
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