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August 28, 2014 0

Moving Forward From Ferguson

“His­tory sim­mers beneath the sur­face in more com­mu­ni­ties than just Fer­gu­son,” Attor­ney Gen­eral Eric Holder aptly rec­og­nized dur­ing his visit there. The con­ver­sa­tion about Fer­gu­son can­not start with the death of Michael Brown, a young unarmed black man shot to death by a white police offi­cer.  Though tragic in and of itself, the story goes back much further.ferguson-civil-rights

It is a sad tru­ism that America’s laws—and the peo­ple charged with enforc­ing them—have not always pro­tected com­mu­ni­ties of color.  In the infa­mous Dred Scott case, which orig­i­nated just miles from Fer­gu­son, the Supreme Court shame­fully ruled in 1857 that African Amer­i­cans had “no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”  Though the case served as a cat­a­lyst for the Civil War and the 13th, 14th and 15th Amend­ments rat­i­fied shortly there­after to super­sede the rul­ing, deep-seated racism continued.

Jim Crow laws seg­re­gated soci­ety and rel­e­gated African Amer­i­cans to second-class cit­i­zens. Lynch­ings ter­ror­ized com­mu­ni­ties.  All too often not only did law enforce­ment fail to pro­tect African Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ties, but police offi­cers par­tic­i­pated in the lynch mobs.  Dur­ing the Civil Rights Move­ment, now-infamous images cap­tured police offi­cers using dogs, fire hoses and billy clubs against peace­ful protestors.

Since the Civil Rights Move­ment half a cen­tury ago we have worked hard as a nation to move towards a more just and equal soci­ety. We have come a long way, but Fer­gu­son stands as a stark reminder that we still have a long way to go.

In address­ing the cri­sis in Fer­gu­son, the first step must be open and respect­ful dia­logue.  We can­not move for­ward unless and until we face the past.  Part of that dis­cus­sion must be about the role of law enforce­ment and their rela­tion­ship with the com­mu­ni­ties they have sworn to serve and protect.

Since 1999 the Anti-Defamation League, in part­ner­ship with the United States Holo­caust Museum, has con­ducted train­ings for law enforce­ment—from police chiefs and the head of fed­eral agen­cies to recruits and new FBI agents—exploring what hap­pens when police lose sight of the val­ues they swore to uphold and their role as pro­tec­tors of the  peo­ple they serve. By con­trast­ing the con­duct of police in Nazi Ger­many, and the role that law enforce­ment is expected to play in our democ­racy, the pro­gram under­scores the impor­tance of safe­guard­ing con­sti­tu­tional rights, build­ing trust with the peo­ple and com­mu­ni­ties they serve, and the tragic con­se­quences when there is a gap between how law enforce­ment behaves and the core val­ues of the profession.

We know from our work that the vast major­ity of offi­cers care deeply about the com­mu­ni­ties they serve.  But that is not to say police are infal­li­ble.  None of us is.  And there are cer­tainly some within law enforce­ment who engage in mis­con­duct, as is the case in every pro­fes­sion.  But the bad acts of some can­not and do not define law enforcement.

Amer­ica is strongest and safest when there is mutual under­stand­ing and trust between law enforce­ment and com­mu­ni­ties.  We must seek to build those bridges by rec­og­niz­ing our trou­ble­some past, acknowl­edg­ing the prob­lems per­sist­ing today, and com­mit­ting to changes that move us for­ward to a more per­fect union.

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June 9, 2014 25

Officers Down: Right-Wing Extremists Attacking Police At Growing Rate

In Las Vegas on June 8, a man and a woman entered a local pizza restau­rant and shot and killed two Las Vegas Metro Police offi­cers, Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo, who were eat­ing lunch there. The shoot­ers then crossed the street to a Wal­mart, where they killed another per­son, then com­mit­ted suicide.officers-killed-domestic-extremists-1965-2014

Though, as of this writ­ing, the names of the sus­pects have not yet been released, details of the shoot­ings and sus­pects released by police or uncov­ered by jour­nal­ists strongly sug­gest the shoot­ings may be the work of right-wing extremists.

If so, the two offi­cers who lost their lives this past Sun­day are only the lat­est in a series of casu­al­ties in a de facto war being waged against police by right-wing extrem­ists, includ­ing both anti-government extrem­ists and white suprema­cists. Some extrem­ists have delib­er­ately tar­geted police, while oth­ers have responded vio­lently when meet­ing police in unplanned encoun­ters. The killings are not the effort of a con­certed cam­paign but rather a series of inde­pen­dent attacks and clashes stem­ming from right-wing ideologies.

In the 1960s and 1970s it was left-wing groups like the Black Lib­er­a­tion Army which tar­geted police for killing. How­ever, by the 1980s, right-wing extrem­ists began to sur­pass left-wing extrem­ists in caus­ing police deaths. The num­ber of offi­cers killed by right-wing extrem­ists more than dou­bled in the 1990s, then increased by 50% more in the first decade of the 2000s. Five offi­cers have been killed by right-wing extrem­ists since 2011, not count­ing the Las Vegas incident.

In the past five years alone, from 2009 through 2013, ADL has tracked 43 sep­a­rate vio­lent inci­dents between domes­tic extrem­ists (of all types) and law enforce­ment in the United States. These inci­dents include sit­u­a­tions in which shots are exchanged between police and extrem­ists (shootouts), sit­u­a­tions in which extrem­ists have fired at police but police sub­dued the extrem­ists with­out hav­ing to return fire, and sit­u­a­tions in which offi­cers had to use their firearms to pro­tect them­selves against extremists.

Of these 43 inci­dents, fully 39 of them involved extrem­ists sport­ing some sort of extreme right-wing ide­ol­ogy. White suprema­cists took part in 21 inci­dents, while anti-government extrem­ists were involved in 17 more. An anti-Muslim extrem­ist was involved in one inci­dent (the other four inci­dents included one with a left-wing extrem­ist and three with domes­tic Islamic extrem­ists). In these shoot­ing inci­dents, the extrem­ists shot 30 offi­cers, 14 fatally. Many other offi­cers sus­tained non-gunfire injuries dur­ing some of these encounters.shooting-incidents-2009-2013-by-ideology

Extreme ide­olo­gies cause right-wing rad­i­cals directly to attack offi­cers. Anti-government extrem­ist such as mili­tia groups and sov­er­eign cit­i­zens believe that police are agents of the ille­git­i­mate gov­ern­ment, while white suprema­cists believe that police are tools of the “Jewish-controlled” gov­ern­ment. The same ide­olo­gies some­times cause extrem­ists to act out vio­lently when they ran­domly encounter police in rou­tine situations.

More­over, because right-wing extrem­ists fre­quently engage in crim­i­nal activity—both ide­o­log­i­cal and non-ideological, police respond­ing to reports of crim­i­nal activ­ity may encounter extrem­ists com­mit­ting a crime or who are fugi­tives from jus­tice. Such sit­u­a­tions can also fre­quently turn deadly.

Unfor­tu­nately, rel­a­tively few offi­cer safety courses incor­po­rate infor­ma­tion about the dan­gers to police from domes­tic extremists.

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December 27, 2013 1

Anti-Muslim Group Promotes Offensive Project For Police

ACT! for Amer­ica, a grass­roots anti-Muslim orga­ni­za­tion that describes Islam as a back­ward and sedi­tious polit­i­cal ide­ol­ogy that poses a threat to Amer­ica and its democ­racy, has launched a project designed to pro­vide law enforce­ment with “the infor­ma­tion, mate­ri­als and train­ing they need to effec­tively under­stand and fight Islamist terrorism.”thin-blue-line-project-act-for-america

How­ever, the Thin Blue Line Project (TBL), a web-portal launched in Octo­ber 2013 that is acces­si­ble to cur­rent and past law enforce­ment offi­cials, con­tains ele­ments that are built on dis­torted and offen­sive claims about Muslims.

For exam­ple, a sec­tion titled “Pedophilia,” advises law enforce­ment of what to be aware of when inves­ti­gat­ing a Mus­lim house­hold. It tells police that “they should be aware of any minors in the home who are not a part of the imme­di­ate family.”

“In some cul­tures,” the sec­tion con­tin­ues, “as our mil­i­tary and oth­ers who have served exten­sively over­seas can attest, hav­ing young males around the house­hold who are used sex­u­ally by the men in the home, is common.”

The TBL also includes a sec­tion that advises police offi­cers on how to iden­tify a “jihadi” dur­ing rou­tine traf­fic stops. Among the indi­ca­tors, accord­ing to this sec­tion, are pam­phlets from the Mus­lim Stu­dent Asso­ci­a­tion, or tak­ing note of the individual’s accent and “asking[ing] where they are from in a com­fort­able non-threatening tone.”

Rec­om­men­da­tions such as these not only paint a dis­torted view of the Mus­lim com­mu­nity, but also pro­mote big­otry and mis­in­for­ma­tion to law enforcement.

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