The militarization of American police forces hasn’t been paid for by just the federal government. Pro-Israel groups in the U.S. have also played a role by financing trips for hundreds of law enforcement officers to travel to the Middle East for counterterrorism training, according to Ali Winston, a contributor to the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR).
Monies provided by such groups as the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee’s Project Interchange and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs have made it possible for “at least 300 high-ranking sheriffs and police from agencies large and small – from New York and Maine to Orange County and Oakland, California” to attend privately funded seminars in Israel since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Winston discovered.
There, they have learned how Israeli security forces deal with demonstrators and armed threats by terrorists. The seminars include field trips to such sites as military installations, surveillance outposts, and checkpoints at the West Bank and the Israeli-Egyptian border. The training includes spending time observing operations conducted by Israel’s Border Patrol, Defense Forces, national police and intelligence services.
U.S. police officials who have undergone such training have come from the Los Angeles and New York police departments, the New York and New Jersey Port Authority Police Department, the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority Police, and the Major County Sheriffs’ Association. The fact that the former chief of Missouri’s St. Louis County Police Department trained in Israel in 2011 recently came to light following the well-armed police response to protestors in St. Louis-based Ferguson.
Israeli training of U.S. police has also influenced the type of equipment being used. Security forces from both countries are now using some identical gear, including stun and tear gas grenades manufactured by the same U.S. companies—Combined Systems Inc. and Defense Technology Corp. A long-range “sound rifle” that emits ear-shattering noise to disperse crowds, which was used against 2005 West Bank protestors, was also used in the recent police action against protestors in Ferguson.
Shakeel Syed, executive director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, told CIR that American police are often copying what Israel does in terms of crowd control and other techniques.
“Whether it is in Ferguson or L.A., we see a similar response all the time in the form of a disproportionate number of combat-ready police with military gear who are ready to use tear gas at short notice,” Syed said. “Whenever you find 50 people at a demonstration, there is always a SWAT team in sight or right around the corner.”
Israel’s security forces have also trained police in Mexico since 1994, originally in response to the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas.
– Danny Biederman, Noel Brinkerhoff