10 tips and tactics for investigating Sovereign Citizens
Sovereign Citizens can be an investigative challenge — much of their personal identification information, such as birth certificates, driver’s licenses, or vehicle tags are fraudulent documents
Law enforcement officers across the country are experiencing a growing number of contacts with Sovereign Citizens — individuals and groups who possess a strong anti-government ideology.
Because they believe the government, its representatives, laws, and policies are illegitimate, Sovereign Citizens regularly find themselves in conflict with the law. Although it’s difficult to accurately access their numbers, it is safe to say that since 2000, their numbers and the violent incidents associated with them have increased at an alarming rate.
Here, I’ll provide you with some investigative tips and suggestions should you encounter a Sovereign Citizen, but, I’d be remiss if I did not take a moment to emphasize that whether you’re dealing with a novice or a hardliner Sovereign Citizen, the prospect of violent action and threats to officer safety should never be taken for granted.
1.) Proceed with Caution
I strongly suggest to any officer encountering a suspected Sovereign Citizen to proceed with extreme caution, employing all necessary tactical officer safety precautions.
One of the first things to recognize is that a Sovereign Citizen is likely to be argumentative with police authorities. They may proclaim themselves as Sovereign Citizens right from the beginning or they may simply challenge your right or authority to stop/detain them.
They may question your authority or where you derive your jurisdiction and inform you that they do not believe in the United States Constitution or any other “illegitimate” government documents from which police powers are derived.
2.) Don't Let Them Throw You Off Your Game
Too often our egos kick in whenever our authority is challenged and we end up arrogantly contributing to the escalation of an argument rather than guiding its de-escalation.
I encourage you to be knowledgeable about the Constitution, the laws of your state, and your enforcement options. With Sovereign Citizens, I suggest you try to deescalate any situation when you have the opportunity to do so. Also, recognize that the Sovereign Citizen may attempt to videotape your encounter.
3.) Remain Calm, Professional, and On Task
On YouTube and elsewhere on the internet, there are some great examples of officer/sovereign encounters where officers remain professional and task oriented despite being confronted and challenged.
I would also encourage you to take a moment and watch a brief safety video offered by West Memphis Police Chief Bob Paudert, father of Sergeant Brandon Paudert, regarding the dangers of Sovereign Citizens.
4.) Watch for Fraudulent Documents
They may identify themselves as “the representative of…(their legal name).”
If you do receive a name, it may be a “sovereign” name, compounded with “El” or “Bey” and intended to denounce their association with the name provided them by a government entity.
Be sure to document all known aliases.
5.) Gather Intelligence
This lack of organization does little to help investigators to get a foothold. However, the more we are able to learn about these unique individuals, the better armed we will be for future encounters and successful prosecutions.
Obviously, we will look at their criminal records but go beyond that. Make use of every database you can think of, including social media to learn as much as you can. Consider the areas they frequent, the vehicles they drive, the people they associate with, their interests, hobbies, family, their parole or probationary status, employment or social service benefits status, prior drug/alcohol abuse, scars, marks, tattoos, and possible weapons in the home.
Interestingly, as much as they proclaim their disdain for the government, they are known to take full advantage of all the government is willing to give them. You’ll see below that as much as they admonish our justice system, they are happy to try to use it against us.
6.) Interview and Debrief
I like to begin with “an information sheet.” This is a form that gathers general but pertinent information about them. Not only name, D.O.B., address, phone number and physical description, but where they work, who they reside with, their marital status, children, emergency contact information, who they might stay with in the event of an emergency, etc…
This seems like a standard part of arrestee processing, but what it actually does is gathering intelligence while establishing a dialogue that helps them acquire a level of comfort with being questioned.
Proceed by asking curious questions about their Sovereign status. Your posture should be one of understanding rather than confrontation. In a non-arrest situation, I advise officers to complete and submit FI reports detailing as much information as possible.
Informants, family, friends or other associates also have relevance with regard to sovereigns. These associations may help you determine, locations, hideouts, vehicles, weapons caches or other useful information toward building a case.
7.) Share Information
One reason to share this information is the FBI has recently deemed Sovereign Citizens “paper terrorists.”
Sovereign Citizens have been known to inundate the courts with false or fraudulent documents intended to file lawsuits against law enforcement and other judicial or government officials. Sovereigns may also attempt to place a lien against your personal property.
Only a handful of states have laws in place to protect public officials from such claims and allow law enforcement to criminally charge sovereigns for such false filings. Therefore, sharing all the information you gather will help to keep everyone informed should you be targeted.
8.) Conduct Surveillance and Search Warrants
Surveillance will not only serve the purpose of gathering intelligence but also provides vital officer safety information should a search warrant execution be required.
Conduct search warrants whenever probable cause exists. Obviously, an officer will document the probable cause contributing to the case but, if possible, include intelligence/background information on known or suspected sovereigns and their anti-government ideologies.
Include items to search for such as anti-government papers, pamphlets, books, false documents, weapons, and the like.
Their computers and electronic data storage devices can contain information on social media and other websites visited. Hard drives can be of tremendous evidentiary value.
9.) Use Tact, Patience, and Persistence
Ask questions and seek the advice of those investigators who have had frequent contact with sovereigns.
10.) Above All, Stay Safe
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