Sometimes you have to stop and wonder what goes through people’s minds. One of the questions often asked of critics of fringe history is “what’s the harm?” Why should we care if the History Channel pumps lies into millions of American homes, or if New Page Books spreads conspiracy theories hither and yon? It’s just fun, right? Well, in California the “fun” stretched right up to the California Department of Justice, according to the Los Angeles County sheriff’s department, which accused an employee of being part of a fake, fringe history-inspired police department.
The L.A. county sheriff’s department arrested three individuals for setting up a fake police department and impersonating peace officers, according to an article published yesterday in the Los Angeles Times. According to the sheriff’s department, David Henry, Tonette Hayes, and Brandon Kiel claimed to be members of the Masonic Fraternal Police Department and asserted in communications with law enforcement across southern California that they had broad jurisdiction by virtue of tracing their agency’s authority to the Knights Templar, whom they claimed to represent. “The Masonic Fraternal Police Department, (M.F.P.D.) is the Knights Templar’s! (sic)” the group writes on the website identified in media reports as belonging to the MFPD.
Kiel is an aide to California’s attorney general, Kamala Harris, a Democrat. He was placed on administrative leave from his job as a deputy director of community affairs at the California Department of Justice after his arrest. According to law enforcement sources and the Los Angeles Times, a man claiming to be Kiel had sent letters to police chiefs across southern California announcing new leadership for the Santa Clarita, Calif.-based MFPD and requesting interagency meetings with the chiefs. Prosecutors accuse Kiel of using his government identification for MFPD activities. The California Department of Justice would not comment on an active investigation.
Santa Clarita sheriff’s investigators discovered “badges, identification cards, weapons, uniforms, police type vehicles and other law enforcement equipment” at two sites in the city associated with the group, according to a statement released to the media.
Residents of the police force’s Santa Clarita home base said that they never realized that the professional-seeming police group was a fake. “I always see them with their uniforms, so I thought they were part of any department,” Sherry Elgabalawy, a neighbor, told KCBS-TV. “I didn’t know it was a fake one.”
Investigators believe that the organization is larger than the three arrested and are looking for additional members.
The phony MFPD drew on fringe history’s wildest claims about Freemasonry and the Knights Templar to provide spurious support for their activities, which law enforcement has yet to fully investigate. The MFPD asserts that it is a Masonic organization and that its hereditary membership is tasked with protecting Masonry’s highest ranking individuals in California and “33 other states, including Mexico City.” It is unclear whether they think Mexico City is within the United States or whether they are simply incompetent grammarians.
According to the group’s ungrammatical website, MFPD claims to be 3,000 years old, the oldest police force on earth, and asserts that its membership is based on bloodlines. “We were here first! We are born into this Organization our bloodlines go deeper then (sic) an application. This is more then (sic) a job it is an obligation.” The group claims to have been founded by the Knights Templar in 1100 BCE, though if I had to guess, I’d say that was a misunderstanding by someone who confused 1100 CE, the period of the Templars, and 1100 BCE; however, the group might be following Masonic mysticism that traces Masonry back to ancient Egypt, however anachronistic that would be for the Templars, chartered in 1129.
The Freemasons have often asserted a connection to the Knights Templar and include a Masonic order of Knights Templar, but there is no documented evidence tying the groups.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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