In a bulletin distributed this week to cops across the region, the Utah Statewide Information and Analysis Center—one of the dozens of intelligence-sharing “fusion centers” around the country, warns that “extremists may utilize such a high profile funeral for media attention or to further ideological beliefs.”
Although “no credible threats to law enforcement are present at this time,” the authors still think police should be wary: “Caravans of individuals traveling to the funeral services may be comprised of one or more armed extremists. Law enforcement should remain vigilant and aware that confrontation with these potentially volatile persons, may include more than one individual. These individuals may adhere to a sovereign citizen ideology, and may not recognize law enforcement as a legitimate authority.”
Fusion Centers are intelligence-sharing shops run on the state and local level but heavily funded by the federal Department of Homeland Security.
The report includes several “visual indicators” to help police determine whether they’re dealing with “extremist and disaffected individuals.” These range from images associated with specific political groups, such as the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters, to a more generic patriotic symbol, the Gadsden flag.
Mike German, a former FBI agent, says “I always try to look at these alerts from the perspective of the police officer on the street,” he says. “What will the officers know after reading this that they didn’t before? Here all they know is to be afraid if they see a Gadsden flag, which could result in an unnecessarily hostile encounter that would increase the chances of violence. There’s nothing here that would help them correctly identify someone who held these beliefs, understand what might trigger hostile reactions, or how to talk to them in a way that would defuse any unnecessary tension.”
He also worries that the bulletin “improperly implies holding such beliefs makes them dangerous”; most of the people involved in these movements are nonviolent, he says, and treating them all like budding terrorists just makes a confrontation more likely.