An aide to California Attorney General and Democratic Senate candidate Kamala Harris was arrested late last week on charges of impersonating a police officer after playing a top role in establishing a fake police department.
Brandon Kiel, Harris’ deputy director of community affairs, was charged last Thursday with several counts of “impersonating a peace office” and with misusing his government I.D.
Kiel and two associates, David Henry and Tonette Hayes, allegedly claimed to represent the Masonic Fraternal Police Department, a group that purported ties to the ancient Knights Templar order, which emerged hundreds of years ago during the First Crusade.
Kristin Ford, Harris’ press secretary, confirmed Wednesday that Kiel is an employee of the California Department of Justice, but that he was placed on paid leave last week and that the department was cooperating with the investigation.
“Kiel didn’t interact with the AG on a regular basis,” Ford said in a statement.
The MFPD didn’t try and stay secret from the public or from legitimate law enforcement, instead directly reaching out to police departments throughout southern California and informing them that Henry had been elected as MFPD chief.
Kiel apparently spearheaded that effort, calling various police departments and asking to meet with those agencies’ chiefs after identifying himself as “Chief Deputy Director Brandon Kiel.”
The L.A. Sheriff’s Department has no doubt that the group was masquerading as a legitimate law enforcement agency, but investigators have yet to determine a motive.
Detectives found “badges, identification cards, weapons, uniforms, police type vehicles and other law enforcement equipment” at two locations associated with the suspects, according to a statement from the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department.
The Los Angeles Times first reported the arrests and the link to Harris, the California attorney general and Senate candidate.
The Times also reported that Henry, MFPD’s purported chief, strolled out in public wearing a “dark blue police uniform with badges and insignia on both arms,” telling people that he was a police chief and handing out his business card.
“He carried himself like a cop, his uniform was spot on to a regular cop uniform, we all thought he was a legit cop,” a chef at a restaurant Henry frequented often told the Times.
CNN’s Cheri Mossburg contributed to this report.