Not really?... only in America ...
Israel Trains D.C. Police Over City Council Objections
Israel Security Forces Are Training American Cops Despite History of Rights Abuses
It’s not uncommon for residents of America’s most heavily policed neighborhoods to describe their local cops as “an occupying force.” Judging by where many U.S. police forces get their training, the description seems apt.
Thousands of American law enforcement officers frequently travel for training to one of the few countries where policing and militarism are even more deeply intertwined than they are here: Israel.
In the aftermath of 9/11, Israel seized on its decades-long experience as an occupying force to brand itself as a world leader in counterterrorism. U.S. law enforcement agencies took the Jewish state up on its expertise by participating in exchange programs sponsored by an array of pro-Israel groups, like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, and the Anti-Defamation League. Over the past decade and a half, scores of top federal, state, and local police officers from dozens of departments from across the U.S. have gone to Israel to learn about its terrorism-focused policing.
Yet Israel’s policing prowess is marred by its primary purpose: occupation. Israel has carried out a half-century of military rule in the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza, an occupation rife with abuses. The country’s police and security forces also regularly violate the rights of Palestinians and immigrants inside of Israel’s 1967 borders.
“A lot of the policing that folks are observing and being talked to about in these trips is policing that happens in a nondemocratic context,” said Alex Vitale, a sociology professor at Brooklyn College and author of a forthcoming book on global policing. “It involves either military policing, border control policing, or policing of folks in the occupied territories who aren’t full legal subjects in the Israeli legal system.”
While attention on the militarization of American police forces has intensified in recent years, spurring some reforms that the Trump administration has already undone, U.S.-Israel police exchange programs have carried on without much public scrutiny.
This week, a delegation of top American law enforcement officers is in Israel for the ADL’s National Counter-Terrorism Seminar, which includes training on topics, such as “leadership in a time of terror” and “balancing the fight against crime and terrorism,” according to literature by the group advertising the trip. More than 200 law enforcement executives from over 100 departments in the U.S. and abroad, immigration enforcement agencies, and even campus police have participated in the ADL program since it launched in 2004.
Among this year’s participants in the seminar is D.C. Metropolitan Police Commander Morgan Kane, whose attendance at the training earned the department a public rebuke from D.C. Councilmember David Grosso. “I am concerned that we are not doing enough to prevent the militarization of law enforcement in the District of Columbia,” he wrote in a letter to Metropolitan Police Department Chief Peter Newsham. “Learning from military advisors is not what local law enforcement needs.”
09072017 Grosso Letter to Newsham on Training1 page
“It just occurs to me that it isn’t a good idea, whether in Israel or another place, to go and train with a military or national police — in essence, learning from people who are better at the violent approach to conflict resolution,” Grosso told The Intercept. “That’s not appropriate for what we’re trying to do here in D.C.”
“We already have the FBI, the CIA, the Secret Service, we have so many national police here, heavily armed,” he added. “We don’t need more of that, we need more of a community-based approach.”
A spokesperson for the D.C. police told The Intercept in an email statement that the department is participating in the training “to learn best strategies in combatting terrorism.”
“Expanding our knowledge on counterterrorism and gaining valuable experience for the next generation of MPD leadership is critical to the safety and well-being of the residents and visitors of D.C.,” the spokesperson wrote. “This opportunity will not allow us to deviate from our commitment to providing fair, unbiased, and constitutional policing.”
In addition to meeting with their Israeli counterparts, American police on the delegations also visit representatives of the Israeli Defense Forces, as well as border security and intelligence services — essentially taking lessons from agencies that enforce military rule rather than civil law.
“It fits in with this ideology of police as warriors,” said Vitale.
“The focus of this training is on riot suppression, counterinsurgency, and counterterrorism — all of which are essentially irrelevant or should be irrelevant to the vast majority of police departments,” he added. “They shouldn’t be suppressing protest, they shouldn’t be engaging in counterinsurgency, and almost none of them face any real threat from terrorism.”
The trainings in Israel also fit within a broader militarization of U.S. law enforcement that is well underway back home. Last month, President Donald Trump issued an executive order rescinding limitations imposed by former President Barack Obama on a military program, known as 1033, that allowed police departments to make discounted purchases of excess military equipment, like armored vehicles and grenade launchers.