Florida Sheriff’s Deputy Wore a QAnon Patch While Greeting Mike Pence. Now He’s off the SWAT Team and Reprimanded
The Broward County Sheriff’s Department reprimanded and reassigned a SWAT team member, Sgt. Matthew Patten, who wore a QAnon conspiracy-theory patch on his uniform while on duty protecting Vice President Mike Pence when Pence arrived at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood airport on Nov. 30. The patch was spotted in a photo posted by the vice president’s office to Twitter.
In the Dec. 3 reprimand, provided by the sheriff’s office to Fortune, the patch is called out for its controversial political message, which conflicts with the department’s “core values of political neutrality.” Patten was told he had engaged in conduct unbecoming an employee, and discredited the office and county.
A spokesperson for the office said in addition to the reprimand, Patten was removed from the the agency SWAT team and the agency’s Strategic Investigations Division’s Office of Homeland Security. However, despite some reports, the spokesperson said Patten was not demoted.
The QAnon movement, which thrives among the far right, believes a U.S. military figure codenamed “Q” sends cryptic signals on unfiltered Internet message boards, 4chan and 8chan, about a conspiracy led by U.S. intelligence agencies against President Donald Trump. “Q” has made numerous allegations without evidence, including broad accusations of pedophilia against liberal or Trump-critiquing celebrities, politicians, and officials. NBC News reported in August how the conspiracy was built by three individuals out of whole cloth for what the report alleges were financial motivations. None of the predictions made by “Q,” such as a Republican sweep at midterms, has proven true.
Patten’s patch appeared in photographs in which he and other members of the sheriff’s security detail met the vice president. After Pence’s Twitter account posted photos from the arrival, the patch was identified by Jared Holt of RightWingWatch. The vice president’s office later deleted the tweet.
The appearance of the QAnon patch, and another unidentified patch to its right on Patten’s uniform, is part of an increasing trend of QAnon adherents to attempt to promote the unfounded theory by appearing near prominent political figures, who they allege cannot speak out directly. This includes a leading proponent of the theory briefly meeting the president for a photo in the Oval Office on Aug. 24. Believers also encourage and attempt to recruit celebrities, some of whom stumble across the theory on their own.