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Militia Groups and Law Enforcement

By 1990, the U.S. Justice Department officially acknowledged the existence of 200 militia-type groups throughout the nation. Known as potential threat elements (PTE), these groups include a wide variety of anti-tax, free-grazing, survivalist, Constitutional, sovereign, para-military, patriot, right-wing, animal activist and racist-related entities.

After the tragic Oklahoma City bombing, federal and state units that surveilled potential threat elements (PTE) became more ‘stealthy.’ As a result of this policy change, several highly motivated private organizations stepped in to monitor extremist entities while making their observations public. 

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has tracked PTEs and potentially dangerous organizations for years and is a popular data source for media industry authors. An article in USA Today

published in 2013, for example, indicated that SPLC officials had identified more than 1,300 domestic PTEs (representing an 800 percent increase over 2008 when Obama had been elected).


This year’s SPLC militia report counted 276 PTEs or a 37 percent increase in militia units between 2014 and 2015. Data from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and Center for Public Integrity (including an article by Jim Tuttle and Alex Lancial in 2014) reinforce these growth contentions. All of these ‘tracking’ organizations see these groups as posing an immediate threat to public safety, liberty and social. 

If so, why didn’t these para-military groups rally to support Amon Bundy’s protest militia in the recent standoff near Burns, Ore.? One answer may lie in the different methodology used by public and private militia ‘trackers.’ Private monitors tend to classify any and all para-military units as dangerous while broader federal guidelines recognize both state-authorized and pro-government militias, in addition to PTEs. 

Several states’ constitutions allow for both public state defense forces and private militia in addition to state National Guard units. Obviously none of these ‘good’ militias had any interest whatsoever in responding to Oregon Bundy’s call to confront the feds.

Secondly, extremist units of all types have been alerted to enhanced government scrutiny since the 2014 Cliven Bundy ‘standoff’ in Nevada. Homeland Security’s Office for Community Partnerships (OCP) is said to be tracking domestic and foreign extremism, but the full extent of government surveillance efforts remains unknown. The U.S. Border Patrol, for example, reportedly loans surveillance drones to other federal agencies including Homeland Security. 

Anonymous participation in any type of stand-off incident is now virtually impossible. The extreme Armageddon-type militias most likely reasoned that Oregon wasn’t the end of the world. It also became obvious that many militia groups were caught off guard by Oregon Bundy’s preemptive siege at the refuge. Prior coordination with other groups was likely minimal or non-existent. 

Lastly, some militia may have been waiting for government forces to ‘pounce’ before deploying to the scene but fortunately that trigger didn’t get pulled because of the government’s slow and cautious handling of the incident. For all of these reasons, Oregon Bundy’s nationwide call for help went unanswered by fellow militia leaders until the stand-off was resolved with only one casualty.

Law enforcement at all levels cannot ignore the potential threat posed by some militia members and/or units. Many of these individuals are extremely dangerous, especially those who still hold grudges relating to Ruby Ridge, Waco, Oklahoma City, Montana, and Texas. However, the Oregon Bundy incident now set the standard in terms of how these situations can be effectively resolved. 

Caution is warranted, however. Should a mishandled incident, or even a major misperception, prompt divergent militia groups to unite, the resulting synergetic effect might be disastrous. It is in the best interest of American policing to continually track American militias in a lawful manner. At the same time, use the Oregon Bundy response as a model when handling militia incidents as they occur. The softly, softly approach worked…we need to remember that.  



Chief J.T. McBride, M.P.A., C.L.E.E., is a criminal justice instructor at Lakeland Community College in Ohio. He may be reached at         

Published in Law and Order, Feb 2016

Rating : 8.0

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Posted on : Feb 26 at 6:11 PM By CinemaNoir

The Southern Poverty Law Center has less integrity than the ACLU ~ and there is no mention of CAIR and the Muslim Brotherhood. Any comments, Chief J. T. McBride, M.P.A., C.L.E.E.?

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