by Christopher Zoukis
The Durham, North Carolina City Council faced an unusual debate at a recent meeting. Activist groups urged the council to prohibit city police officers from participating in police training exchanges with Israel. According to the groups, such training promotes the militarization of police forces. Council members agreed and voted to prohibit the exchanges.
Given the growing popularity of paramilitary-style police forces in America, the council’s 6-0 vote to ban such training was surprising. But the city council members made their position on the matter clear.
“The council opposes international exchanges with any country in which Durham officers receive military-style training since such exchanges do not support the kind of policing we want here in the city of Durham,” the council said in a statement.
Both the mayor and police chief believed that the council got the vote wrong. Mayor Steve Schewel said the council was given “completely false information,” and for her part, Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis said her office has made “no effort . . . to initiate or participate in any exchange to Israel, nor do I have any intention to do so.”
The activist groups, Jewish Voice for Peace and the Durham Palestine Coalition, oppose police militarization in American and human rights abuses in Israel. According to The Free Thought Project, the groups have called for “demilitarization from Durham to Gaza.” They oppose all forms of state violence, whether in the form of police brutality against blacks or Israeli military action against Palestinians.
Some criticized the council’s vote. Bob Gutman, co-chairman of Voice for Israel, said the measure could incite “anti-Israel” sentiments.
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