Date of Conferral





Human Services


Tina Jaeckle


With the election of President Barack Obama, the United States has seen a steady increase in the number of right-wing militia groups. The Southern Poverty Law Center and the Department of Homeland Security have claimed that the various militia groups are a dangerous domestic terrorism threat. Law enforcement perceptions of the threat that these militia groups pose served as the focus of inquiry in this multiple case study. These perceptions were explored through the theoretical frameworks of groupthink, Credulous Bayesianism, and nudge theory. A purposeful sample of 12 local sheriffs in Texas were interviewed in an attempt to identify common themes regarding their perceptions of militia groups. Two common themes emerged from the interviews, which showed that sheriffs' firsthand knowledge and experience with members of the militia were instrumental in their approach to militias. If sheriffs had direct contact with the militia, then they did not believe that it posed a threat to society. However, if sheriffs did not have firsthand experience with the militia and depended on the media for their opinions, then they followed the narrative that the militia groups are dangerous. This research project showed that sheriffs' direct interaction with the militia can decrease law enforcement's fear of militia groups, allowing sheriffs to detect, investigate, and prosecute any actual threats from militia groups to make their communities safer while protecting the rights of all citizens.