The Florida SWAT team leader who wore a QAnon patch on his uniform while meeting Vice President Pence last week has been disciplined by the sheriff’s office that he works for and will lose his tactical assignment, officials announced Monday.
Sgt. Matt Patten, who was photographed greeting Pence at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport along with other members of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office on Friday, will be removed from its Office of Homeland Security as well as the agency’s SWAT team, and reassigned to the Department of Law Enforcement.
Patten, a 31-year veteran of the force, was charged with violating the office’s policies on employee conduct and uniform procedure. According to a memo released by the sheriff’s office on Monday, Patten was a leader of the tactical team that had been working with the Secret Service for an elaborate security plan for the vice president’s motorcade during his visit.
After Pence returned to the airport after speaking to an Israeli American group at a Hollywood hotel, the SWAT team was told that the vice president wanted to personally thank them for their service and take a photograph in front of his airplane.
“For this event, SWAT Team Leader — Sergeant Patten intentionally placed an unauthorized symbol / patch onto his agency issued SWAT vest to meet and post with V.P.O.T.U.S Pence,” the memo read.
The patch, with a large letter Q in black surrounded by red and the text “Question the Narrative,” was flagged by social media observers Friday. It is affiliated with QAnon, a collection of baseless conspiracy theories that posit that there are anonymous truth-tellers working on Internet message boards to spread the word about a global cabal bent on stymieing President Trump.
The sheriff’s report called QAnon, which has racist and anti-Semitic undertones among some adherents, “a controversial conservative political conspiracy group” that is “ultra-supportive of the President Trump Administration, and aligns itself with theoretical alternative meanings behind political happenings."
“Being a highly political entity with a narrow one sided scope of positioning, public alignment and representation of such a group is in contrast with the core values of political neutrality within the Broward Sheriff’s Office,” the report said. “Sergeant Patten’s actions of displaying unity with controversial group is not in alignment with the core values of law enforcement and the Broward Sheriff’s Office, [and] discredited the agency, the county, and himself.”
The sheriff office’s found Patten to be in violation of its prohibition on “conduct unbecoming an employee.”
Pence had tweeted the image, along with others of himself posing with law enforcement members on the tarmac on Friday.
“Grateful for the courageous members of law enforcement who helped with my visit to Florida this afternoon,” Pence wrote.
It was deleted after observers noted the patch in the photo, although it can still be found elsewhere online.