An unidentified Orange County sheriff’s deputy is under investigation for wearing patches connected with extremist groups on his uniform during a protest in Costa Mesa over the killing of George Floyd.
Sheriff Don Barnes launched an internal investigation into the deputy, who was seen in photos and videos wearing the patch at a protest in Costa Mesa on Tuesday.
A patch of the United States flag partially covered by the logo of the Three Percenters above the word “Oathkeeper” was seen on the deputy’s uniform located in the middle of his tactical vest. Another patch of the historical Gadsen flag with a rattlesnake and the words “Don’t Tread on Me” can also be seen on the uniform.
The deputy’s name was not visible.
The patches were seen as protesters in Orange County took to the streets in Anaheim and Costa Mesa — as well as other cities across Southern California and the country — to denounce Floyd’s death last week in Minneapolis after a police officer kneeled on his neck for several minutes.
“These symbols are not department-approved and are prohibited by policy, and contradict the values of the Sheriff’s Department,” Barnes said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon.
Barnes said any symbol can have multiple meanings that are open to interpretation, and noted that is why non-approved symbols and patches are strictly prohibited.
All employees of the Sheriff’s Department have since been reminded about the uniform policy.
“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,” Barnes noted. “Instances like this can forge a wedge separating law enforcement from the community we serve, especially during these turbulent times.”
The Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations also issued a statement calling for an investigation.
“It is outrageous that a member of a law enforcement organization would be so brazen as to apparently wear a symbol of violence, discord and bigotry on his uniform, especially in the wake of the murder of George Floyd,” said Hussam Ayloush, executive director of CAIR-LA.
According to CAIR-LA, the Three Percenters is a “patriot movement that pledges armed resistance against attempts to restrict private gun ownership.”
The Orange County Democratic Party also drew attention to the patches on Twitter, calling the group a “far-right militia.”