Anti-Terrorism Training Attended By San Diego Sheriff's Deputies Draws Criticism
The San Diego County Sheriff's Department this week sent deputies to a two-day symposium intended to prepare law enforcement officers for Islamic terrorist attacks.
The event, called "What Law Enforcement Needs to Know About Islamic Terrorism," took place on Wednesday and Thursday and was organized by the California Association of Tactical Officers. One of the headline speakers was Ryan Mauro, a frequent commentator on Fox News who has warned of radical jihadists trying to implement Sharia law in the U.S.
Mauro works for the conservative Clarion Project, which the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as anti-Muslim. San Diego activists sent a letter to local law enforcement agencies asking them to discourage their officers from attending the training.
"This type of racist training will only heighten tensions in our communities — it serves to heighten differences rather than promote commonalities," read the letter, which was signed by Sara Haldeman-Scarr, president of the Peace Resource Center of San Diego's board of directors.
Anne Barron, a member of the organization's board, said the training event is based on a single flawed ideology.
"If you look at the Clarion Project, which is supporting this type of training, their ideology is simply about, 'It's the Muslims who are creating terrorism,'" Barron said. "And that false ideology kind of blinds law enforcement to the fact that terrorism can come at any place at any time."
The organizers of the symposium did not respond to a request for comment. In other interviews, Mauro has refuted accusations that he is anti-Muslim. An article by Vice News detailed a similar law enforcement training in New York at which Mauro spoke, quoting him as saying:
"(It) highlights how Muslims have contributed to national security, as well as the danger posed by anti-Muslim violent extremists — which is part of the reason why it is so ridiculous for anyone to claim that I, or my presentations, are anti-Muslim."
Sheriff's spokeswoman Jan Caldwell confirmed deputies had been sent to the symposium and were being paid their regular salaries while in attendance. She explained the decision to send them in a statement:
"The purpose of sending deputies to this seminar is to further hone and improve skills specific to a tactical response when an Islamic-type terrorist attack occurs. We anticipate the materials provided will aid tactical first-responders with successful strategies and countermeasures unique to this form of violence, and allow them to save the lives of innocents caught up in these attacks."
We are not engaging in any form of racial or religious profiling; rather, we are learning from previous assaults in San Bernardino, New York City, Washington, D. C., et al, as to methodologies radical extremists utilized, so we can better prepare our responses or hopefully, avoid an attack and save lives. Understanding the motivations of terrorists may also assist the Department in its prevention and outreach efforts consistent with the Department of Homeland Security's Countering Violent Extremism Program."