The Oath Keepers, a far-right militia group, were among the extremists whose members violently attacked the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6 — and they have been actively recruiting law enforcement officers and military veterans. One of the law enforcement officers in Southern California who was a member of the Oath Keepers in the past, according to the Orange County Register, is Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco.
In an article published the Register on October 5, reporters Joe Nelson and Scott Schwebke explain that Bianco "was a dues-paying member of the Oath Keepers in 2014, an affiliation he acknowledges and makes no apologies for despite the group's reputation as a militia of anti-government extremists." Bianco, according to the reporters, has "defended the group as a pro-Constitution, pro-freedom organization mislabeled by the FBI and mainstream media."
Nelson and Schwebke report, "Bianco's one-time membership — along with the memberships of roughly 40,000 others, including current and former law enforcement and military personnel nationwide — was exposed after hackers breached the Oath Keepers' website and mined its data. The information was made available to the media by Distributed Denial of Secrets, also known as DDoSecrets, a subversive whistleblower group founded in 2018. Its members use cloak-and-dagger monikers such as The Lorax and The Architect and secure web browsers so information can be disseminated anonymously. The group has been described as an offshoot of Wikileaks."
Although California has evolved into a deep blue state — President Joe Biden won California by 29% in the 2020 presidential election — it has its pockets of far-right Trumpism. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Rep. Devin Nunes, for example, were reelected via California in 2020 — and Nelson and Schwebke note that Bianco, who was elected sheriff of Riverside County (which is east of Los Angeles) in 2018, "has been an outspoken critic of COVID-19 vaccine mandates, mask mandates and business restrictions since the pandemic forced statewide business closures in March 2020."
Bianco, discussing his membership in the Oath Keepers seven years ago, told the Southern California News Group, "I found an e-mail from 2014 where I joined for a year. I don't even remember it. It was an e-mail saying, 'Thank you for joining.' I paid for a year's membership."
Brian Levin, a former New York Police Department officer who now serves as director of Cal State San Bernardino's Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism, believes that Bianco's association with the Oath Keepers is of "monumental significance" and told the Southern California News Group, "This is the highest ranking law enforcement executive among the largest agencies to be tied to this militant insurrectionist group."