May 13, 2015
There’s something about superhero movies that keep audiences coming out in droves. The idea of stouthearted individuals taking on nefarious criminal elements, both natural and supernatural, plays into human beings’ love of the fantastic. Now it seems Californians don’t even have to head to the multiplex to look for crime fighters operating outside of any legal jurisdiction—they can go straight to Attorney General Kamala Harris’ justice department. On May 6th, an aide to Ms. Harris, Brandon Kiel, as well as two others, Tonette Hayes and David Henry, were arrested and charged with running a secret police force based in Santa Clarita, California. Here are the basics:
They aren’t so secret after all
This ancient crime-fighting legion wasn’t outed in a sting operation or multi-year internal investigation on behalf of the justice department. Allegedly, Kiel sent out a blast mailer in January 2015 to the heads of various law-enforcement agencies, including the L.A. Sherriff’s Department, informing them that he was the M.F.P.D.’s new deputy director. If this wasn’t enough of a heads up, he then called to schedule in-person meetings in which he would introduce himself as said deputy director.
Oh, and they also have their own website.
They go back a long way
The Masonic Fraternal Police Department trace their origins back to the Knights Templar, a group of Freemasons that existed in the Middle Ages. So beholden are they to this history that they still self-identify as the Knights Templar. More ominous (or simply disdainful) is a section of the organization’s home page where they refer to the “world” in quotations. This seems to suggest that they don’t acknowledge the world as an actual thing. At the very least they make it clear they are not “sovereign citizens” (again, their quotes, not mine) of any nation state.
They might operate beyond the Golden State
If the idea of ancient fraternal order operating out of the justice department isn’t unsettling enough, consider that the group claims some 500,000 members in 33 states and Mexico. The fact they managed to exist in a clandestine manner in California’s highest corridors of power up until this point suggests they might just be able to back up their claims.
Ultimately, the suspects and the M.F.P.D. may offer little more than vague declarations of “obligation-honor-justice-honor-charity” (yes, they used “justice” twice), but they earnestly feel entitled to operate openly because, as they put it, “We were here first!” Just don’t take the crisp new police uniforms on their website too seriously—they’re also charged with impersonating an officer.