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Let’s be cops: The curious case of the ‘Masonic Fraternal Police Department’

A police line keeps the public out of the scene of a car crash in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis.
A police line keeps the public out of the scene of a car crash in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis.
Tony Webster/Flickr

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They walk among us, even though we don’t see them. They are the protectors of the realm, the watchers on the wall, the swift hand of justice that reaches out when all hope is lost.

They are the Masonic Fraternal Order of Police...and they don’t actually exist.

A former aide to California attorney general Kamala Harris and two others now have to deal with the real justice system for allegedly operating a fake police department that claimed it had ties to dating back thousands of years to the Knights of Templar. Tonette Hayes, David Henry, who claimed to be the ‘chief’ of the department, and Brandon Kiel, Harris’ former aide, were all arrested last week and face a smattering of charges, including impersonating a police officer and misusing a state ID.

The real police first found out about the group after Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department Captain Roosevelt Johnson had a strange encounter with three individuals who came into the Santa Clarita station in February. It left Captain Johnson so suspicious that he had them investigated following their visit. As it turns out, the three had been going to law enforcement agencies across California, introducing themselves as the Masonic Fraternal Police Department. Their website claims that it is “the oldest and most respected organization in the ‘world.’”

Was this group formed for a purpose or were these just three people who wanted to play cops? What is the history groups like these in the U.S. and around the world? Can we compare the Masonic Fraternal Order of Police to groups like Sovereign Citizens?


Roosevelt Johnson, Captain of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Santa Clarita Valley Station. He was the first to investigate the suspects after a February meeting.

Anthony Lemieux, investigator with the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START)