Deputy Wearing Extremist Militia Group Patches at L.A. George Floyd Protest Under Investigation, Sheriff Says

A Los Angeles sheriff's department has launched an investigation into claims one of their deputies wore a patch expressing support for right-wing paramilitary groups while policing a George Floyd protest.

The Orange County Sheriff's Department (OCSD) said it is "deeply concerning" that one of their officers was pictured wearing a patch on his uniform associated with extremist groups while on duty at a protest in Costa Mesa on Tuesday.

The deputy, who has not been identified, was pictured with a United States flag partially covered by the logo of the Three Percenters group above the word "Oathkeeper," on his vest.

Video of the deputy sporting the right-wing patches appeared on social media, with the patches appearing to cover his name badge on his uniform.

"This deputy's decision to wear these patches, and the implication of his association with an extremist group, is unacceptable and deeply concerning to me," Sheriff Don Barnes said in a statement.

"Any symbol can have multiple meanings and is open to interpretation, which is why wearing of non-approved symbols and patches is strictly prohibited. Instances like this can forge a wedge separating law enforcement from the community we serve, especially during these turbulent times."

The Orange County Sheriff's Department said they are conducting an internal investigation into the officer and have re-briefed all employees regarding their uniform policy.

We need trustworthy officers of the law who serve and protect ALL. There is no place for far-right militia extremism on OC's taxpayer dime. Call the Sheriff's office NOW. (714) 647-7000.

— Democratic Party of OC (@DPOC) June 3, 2020

The Three Percenters are a militia group known for their violent rhetoric. Their name is a reference to a dubious claim that only three percent of American colonists fought against the British during the War of Independence.

The Anti-Defamation League say The Three Percenters view themselves as "modern day versions" of revolutionaries who are fighting against the U.S. government rather than the British.

"With anyone able to declare themselves a Three Percenter, the concept allowed many people to join who were not suited, physically or by inclination, to engage in paramilitary activities," the ADL adds.

Members of the Three Percenters also provided security for those taking part in the deadly neo-Nazi Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and were linked to an attempted bomb attack on the BancFirst building in Oklahoma City in 2017.

The Oath Keepers were founded in 2009 by Elmer Stewart Rhodes, a veteran army paratrooper and former Ron Paul congressional staffer, reported the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The militia movement, believed to be one of the largest radical anti-government groups in the U.S., claims to have tens of thousands of members.

The group mainly recruit current and former law enforcement and military personnel, although it does also accept civilians.

Members were previously seen armed with rifles on top of rooftops during the disorder which followed the death of black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014.

The Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA) praised Barnes' decision to investigate the officer wearing the extremist patches.

"We are encouraged by the quick response from Sheriff Barnes to initiate an investigation into this matter. We ask for the Orange County Sheriff's Department to formulate a clear policy against the display of such offensive material," CAIR-LA Executive Director Hussam Ayloush said.

"Furthermore, we ask that officers and staff who engage in such behavior that undermines the community's confidence be held accountable. These measures will signal to the community at large that we all stand together in ensuring there is zero tolerance to any form of racism in our county."

A demonstrator holds her hands up while she kneels in front of the Police at the Anaheim City Hall on June 1, 2020 in Anaheim, California, during a peaceful protest over the death of George Floyd. The Orange County Sheriff Department is investigating a deputy who was pictured wearing a patch of rigth-wing paramilitary groups while policing a Costa Mesa protest. Getty