Paudert: Police should learn to recognize so-called sovereign citizens
Police officers should learn to recognize members of the sovereign citizens movement, said Robert Paudert, a retired West Memphis, Ark., police chief, on Nov. 14.
So-called "sovereigns" are anti-government extremists who don't believe they have to follow the law or pay taxes are can be dangerous. Sovereigns killed two West Memphis police officers, including Paudert's son Brandon, during a routine traffic stop in May 2010.
In that instance, instead of a license, the driver provided meaningless paperwork common among sovereigns, Paudert said at a talk at the Center for National Policy in Washington, D.C. The documents distracted the officers, and the vehicle's passenger--the driver's 16-year-old son--then shot them to death.
Later that day, during a shootout with police in which the father and son both died, the boy--who as part of his sovereign upbringing had never been to school--seriously wounded two more officers.
The Southern Poverty Law Center estimates that sovereigns number in the hundreds of thousands nationwide.
Paudert said that when police officers pull someone over, they should look for fake or homemade license plates, as well as bumper stickers common among sovereigns such as one that reads "I am an American national." If officers think they may have pulled over a sovereign, they should not approach the vehicle alone, Paudert said.
Sovereigns also sometimes hand over odd versions of driver's licenses or social security cards.
"If they give you anything else" besides a driver's license and proof of registration and insurance, "don't accept it," Paudert said.
In the 2010 case where Paudert's son was killed, the driver also said he was a pastor, which Paudert said caused the officers to let their guard down as they examined the strange paperwork the driver had provided.
Paudert said the FBI has stepped up efforts on domestic extremists like sovereigns in recent years. He added that the FBI used to overlook the issue, but "they're doing a great job now."
The bureau's efforts have included training for small police departments and inclusion of sovereigns in their database of suspected terrorists, Paudert said.
- go to the event webpage (audio available)