LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A community liaison for California’s attorney general has been charged with impersonating a police officer for his role in a self-proclaimed police organization that traces its roots back 3,000 years and claims jurisdiction in much of the United States and Mexico, authorities said on Wednesday.
The criminal charge against Brandon Kiel, who has served as deputy director of community affairs for Kamala Harris’ California Department of Justice, represents a potential embarrassment as the Democratic attorney general campaigns for a U.S. Senate seat.
Kiel’s arrest last week resulted from an investigation by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officials that turned up weapons, police-type vehicles, badges and equipment.
The investigation began in January after police chiefs in Southern California received letters announcing David Henry had been elected chief of the so-called Masonic Fraternal Police Department, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement.
Later, Kiel contacted several law enforcement agencies and, on behalf of the fictitious police department, requested meetings with their chiefs, the statement said.
Captain Roosevelt Johnson of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department met with members of the Masonic Fraternal Police Department who claimed jurisdiction in 33 U.S. states and Mexico but could not answer questions about their group’s mission, sheriff’s investigators said.
On its website, the Masonic Fraternal Police Department traces its history to “the first Police Department” created by the “Knights Templar’s” in 1,100 B.C.
The Knights Templar were a medieval Christian military order that amassed enormous wealth, leading to legends of hidden treasures, secret rituals and power.
Sheriff’s detectives, after concluding they were dealing with a fake police department, arrested Kiel, 31, in April in Southern California along with Henry, 46, and Tonette Hayes, 59.
The Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office charged Kiel with impersonating an officer and unlawful use of identification. Henry and Hayes also face impersonation charges and Henry was charged with perjury by declaration.
All were freed on bail and could not be reached for comment. It was not clear if they have obtained attorneys.
The Sheriff’s Department did not provide details on the weapons and law enforcement-type equipment it said investigators uncovered.
Harris spokeswoman Kristin Ford said Kiel works for the California Department of Justice and was placed on administrative leave on April 30. Kiel, whose job required him to serve as a liaison with the public, was hired as a civil servant and not appointed by Harris, Ford said.
Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Bill Trott and Eric Beech