An open letter to SDPD Chief Zimmerman concerning the “training” of SWAT officers by Islamophobic “experts”

Chief Zimmerman
San Diego Police Department
1401 Broadway
San Diego, CA 92101
szimmerman@sandiego.gov

August 19, 2016

Dear Chief Zimmerman,

Re: an open letter concerning the “training” of SWAT officers by Islamophobic “experts”

We are writing to express our concern over the training of San Diego police officers.  The issue of training has become especially problematic in light of the number of officer-involved-deaths. 

The Board of the Peace Resource Center has received notice about the troubling “Symposium on Islamic Terrorism” in Escondido next week, arranged by the California Association of Tactical Officers.  One of the presenters, Ryan Mauro, has been identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an extremist who advocates the profiling of Muslims simply based on their religious affiliation.

Officer training is an essential part of good policing, and should refrain from teaching profiling based on religion, ethnicity or race.  Behavioral profiling is an accepted practice that allows law enforcement to look at the actions and affiliations of potential perpetrators, not racial, ethnic or religious factors.  The deployment of SWAT teams is particularly associated with the high potential for death or severe injury.  It is essential that their training reinforce good police practices over those that depend on unfounded stereotypes.  We cannot forget the many that have been killed at the hands of police in San Diego, nor those that have been brutalized.

While you are not responsible as Chief of Police for the choice of presenter at CATO symposiums, we urge you to use your influence to demand CATO provide SWAT officers with best practices, those that are aligned with the practices the SDPD has promised to improve in recent months.  If you are not aware of the ideology of Clarion, you should read up on this hate-based organization.  Several organizations in San Diego have shown the film “Peace Officer” in the past year, which details how the SWAT approach has been taken over by a military mind-set, one that sees an enemy rather than one that sees a fellow being in distress.  We urge you to use your authority and instruct your officers to avoid this “training”. We ask that you also not provide compensation or credit for any training that uses hate-based ideology to profile our sisters and brothers.

We have heard troubling stories of young Muslims, especially women, singled out and harassed by San Diego police.  This type of racist training will only heighten tensions in our communities – it serves to heighten differences rather than promote commonalities.  The Peace Resource Center (www.prcsd.org) has a variety of resources we can provide for SDPD on conflict resolution, de-escalation, and non-violence trainings. 

We look forward to working with your office on promoting community policing rather than armed violence in our streets, and we look forward to hearing back from you on this.

Sincerely,

Sara Haldeman-Scarr
PRCSD Board President

CC: California Association of Tactical Officers
       Mayor Kevin Faulconer
       San Diego City Council President Lightner
       Executive Director Moseley, Citizens Review Board on Police Practices
       United States Attorney for the Southern District of California
       District Attorney Dumanis
       County Sheriff Gore
       CAIR
       Veterans For Peace Islamophobia Project