Law enforcement must understand the sovereign citizen movement, and be able to identify specific components that make up the movement, in order to protect themselves.
In a study conducted by The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) in 2014, law enforcement agencies identified the sovereign citizen movement as the greatest threat to their communities. To put it in perspective, the same study in 2006 identified Islamic extremists as the greatest threat.
What is a sovereign citizen?
Sovereign citizens believe that federal, state, and local governments operate illegally. Additionally, some sovereign citizens believe federal and state officials have no real authority and will only recognize the local sheriff’s department as the only legitimate government official. The actions of sovereign citizens, to “fix the system” range from quirky-but-legal to severe crimes. According to the FBI, when sovereign citizens feel their ideals are challenged they can escalate to violence quickly. Since 2000, lone-offender sovereign citizen extremists have killed six law enforcement officers.
Law enforcement must understand the sovereign citizen movement and be able to identify indicators to protect themselves from the group’s threatening tactics. Most of these crimes are based on the Redemption Theory.
What is the Redemption Theory and a strawman birth certificate?
The Redemption Theory says that when the U.S. dollar was taken off the gold standard, the government started using its citizens as collateral. Sovereign citizens believe that social security numbers, birth certificates, even zip codes are part of a system that assigns a collateral value to every citizen.
At the center of the theory is the idea that U.S. citizens have two identities. One identity is a legal entity known as a strawman, created by a birth certificate—thus strawman birth certificate. The second identity is you as a physical person. The theory claims that when you reject your strawman identity, your physical person is no longer liable for the strawman’s debts.
Sovereign citizens believe a secret bank account exists at the United States Department of the Treasury. They exploit this belief by filing fraudulent financial documents, charging their debt to the Treasury Department and committing additional mortgage, credit card, tax, and loan fraud.
It’s common for sovereign citizens to continue their schemes from behind bars and learn new tactics from inmates and spread their ideology within prison walls which make the schemes increasingly clever and difficult to identify.