This story has been updated.
Undersheriff Ron Trowbridge (Photo Credit: Powers County)
This weekend, an email written by Ron Trowbridge, the undersheriff of Prowers County, Colorado, started sweeping some of the viral corners of the internet. It alleges that a Colorado State Police training encouraged law enforcement officials to look at Bible-believing Christians with intense skepticism.
At first glance, the startling allegations in the letter, which was first posted on the conservative site Red Statements, were seemingly unbelievable. But TheBlaze reached out to Trowbridge to confirm that he wrote the note and to speak further about its contents.
In sum, the undersheriff said that he, indeed, wrote it and that the version that has been published is entirely accurate to what he experienced at the training session. Here are the first two paragraphs of his note, which summarizes the problematic training in its entirety:
On April 1, 2013 I attended training in La Junta, Colorado hosted by the Colorado State Patrol (CSP). The training was from 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm and covered two topics, Sovereign Citizens, and Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs. I was pretty familiar with motorcycle gangs but since we often deal with the so-called sovereign citizen groups I was interested to see what they had to say. The group consisted of police officers, deputies, and CSP troopers. There were about 20 people in attendance.
Trooper Joe Kluczynski taught a 2-hour section on sovereign citizens. Kluczynski spent most of his two hours focusing on how, in his view and apparently the view of Homeland Security, people turn to the sovereign citizen movement. Kluczynski started off by saying there are probably some sovereign citizens in this room and gave a generalized list of those groups that have sovereign citizen views. Among those groups, Kluczynski had listed, were those who believe America was founded on godly principles, Christians who take the Bible literally, and “fundamentalists”. Kluczynski did not explain what he meant by “fundamentalists” but from the context it was clear he was referring again to those who took the Bible literally or “too seriously.”
For those who are unfamiliar, the sovereign citizen movement is comprised of individuals who believe that they are free from state, local and federal laws. It is a loosely affiliated group that rejects many elements of governance, including, but not limited to, taxation.
As TheBlaze's Jonathon M. Seidl explained last year, "They’re a mixed bag. Some reject their U.S. citizenship and don’t recognize government authority, like laws and taxes. But others don’t, and are more concerned with private property." Of late, officials have cited a heightened potential of violence among these individuals as well tax evasion and other related crimes. The FBI began looking at this group more intensely back in 2009, as documented here.
Based on Trowbridge's account, Kluczynski was essentially saying that Bible-believing Christians who take the holy book literally are more likely to embrace such notions. In his interview with TheBlaze, the undersheriff confirmed this detail, noting that Kluczynski purportedly stereotyped Christians, encouraging the 20 to 25 law enforcement personnel at the meeting to keep a watchful eye over such believers.
"It was a very, very fast course. This guy spoke at a very fast rate and he used a PowerPoint as he was going through it -- and the first part of his course was on what causes people to lean more towards the sovereign citizen movement," Trowbridge told TheBlaze.
"He had a list of groups of people who are likely or who are sovereign citizens. One was Christians and I don't remember how he worded it, but it was Christians -- but when he got to that part he said these are the people who take the Bible literally...these are the people who think that America was founded on Christian principles," he continued.
Rather than telling officials to literally "go after" Christians, Trowbridge said that the trainer was alerting police and law enforcement to "be careful of these people," as they are apparently at risk of joining the anti-government movement.
Kluczynski purportedly mentioned "fundamentalists" as well, but he didn't delve into additional details surrounding what, exactly, he meant by the label. Trowbridge told TheBlaze that he was shocked that others in the room didn't react more fervently to the insinuations being made during the presentation.
"What I found a little stunning was that it really didn't catch the attention of many there," he said.
But that wasn't all. The trainer also apparently went on to say that it was the election of a black president that also spawned sovereign citizen sentiment. And he questioned whether or not officers would be ready to go after "illegal" weapons, if needed. Here's the portion of the undersheriff's letter that explains these details:
While Kluczynski emphasized that sovereign citizens have a right to their beliefs, he was clearly teaching that the groups he had listed should be watched by law enforcement and should be treated with caution because of their potential to assault law enforcement. Kluczynski explained why he believed these groups were dangerous saying they were angry over the election of a black president. When someone in the group suggested the failing economy was probably much more to blame, Kluczynski intimated that those who are not going along with the changes in America will need to be controlled by law enforcement. Kluczynski even later questioned some of the troopers present if they were willing and prepared to confiscate “illegal” weapons if ordered to.
Trowbridge told TheBlaze that he's a Christian, which is why Kluczynski's reported comments about believers were so perplexing to him. The undersheriff said that he reads the Bible daily and that he tries to live it out in practice. With that in mind, he seemed perplexed that authorities would assume Christians are more prone to being sovereign citizen enthusiasts.
"We're taught to pay our taxes. We're taught to be in authority of those over us. We're to obey the law unless it conflicts with God's law," he continued.
Of particular note, Trowbridge said that he would have written off the claims had Kluczynski simply said that they were rooted in his own personal views. But the sentiments were apparently approached as though they were fact.
"He said he gets his information from Homeland Security -- and it was on his PowerPoint," he continued, noting that it seemed as though the Department of Homeland Security endorsed these ideologies.
Trowbridge also shared that Kluczynski told the group that he would be leaving the State Patrol to take a job with Homeland Security in the coming days.
TheBlaze has reached out to Kluczynski, Colorado State Patrol and DHS for comment. We have been unable to contact Kluczynski, however a representative for DHS told us the department is looking into the incident and will respond as soon as possible.
UPDATE II: After DHS released a brief statement (see below), the Colorado State Patrol sent the following note to TheBlaze:
A law enforcement training class offered by the Colorado State Patrol on April 1, 2013, in southeastern Colorado has come under scrutiny from one of its attendees, a local county undersheriff. The specific assertion was that the Colorado State Patrol would target members of certain religious or political ideologies.
We have spoken to several officers who attended this same training and have verified that none of them interpreted the instructor’s comments in the manner described by the undersheriff. We regret that he misrepresented the training material in a way that clearly is not the position of the Colorado State Patrol.
UPDATE: Around 3:30 p.m. ET, DHS issued the following response to TheBlaze:
The training referenced in the Undersheriff’s letter was not done in coordination with DHS and no DHS training materials were part of the prepared presentation. DHS provides law enforcement around the country with access to training that focuses on the behaviors and indicators of violent behavior, regardless of the ideology that may motivate it.
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