Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

July 16, 2013

Kullu am wa antum bi-khair

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on July 16, 2013

The author of today’s post is a police chief who wishes to remain unnamed.  It was written a few days ago, after dinner.

It is 10:20pm and I have just gotten home after attending a Ramadan Banquet in my official capacity as Chief of Police.

In talking with the FBI ahead of time, I learned they were at this banquet last year.  They told me about the composition of the group, what the event commemorates, what type of food will be served, that I will be expected to speak to the attendees and they warned me that the men and women are separated into two different rooms.

I thought to myself, “Hmmm…. I wonder if they know I’m a girl??”

I arrived as the Imam was just finishing leading the men in prayers.  Some of the men walked by me without saying a word.  Others stared at me, so conspicuous in my police Class A uniform; long sleeve and tie, gunbelt on.

Finally, my contact came out and greeted me.  I was seated at a table marked “reserved,” along with the Imam and other officers for the board of their mosque.

In opening remarks, one Board Officer talked about their small community of 300 families and how they had finally secured a building to serve as their new mosque.  When he called me up to speak, I looked out into the crowd and felt certain that all 300 families were represented there.  Their presence spoke to strength of community; a powerful bond.

Before I left, the Board Officer asked me to go to the other room where the women were waiting for me.  I walked in and was immediately mauled by a group of girls all around the age of 5.  They hugged me, sat on my lap, touched my badge, and asked me if I had super powers.

As I said my goodbyes and walked towards my car, I thought how (with a few modifications, of course) this could have been an Easter dinner at my Church to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection and the end of Lent.

I reflected on the power of community, regardless of the deity one worships.  I remembered that groups of people share similar dynamics, no matter what underlying beliefs drive them.

And, as so many of us in this Homeland Security enterprise are public servants first and foremost, I personally reaffirmed my oath of office to serve and protect those in my community.

Remembering that what drives one group of people is not so different than what drives another, helps to safeguard the good and eradicate the bad.

may you be well throughout the year

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12 Comments »

Comment by Arnold Bogis

July 16, 2013 @ 12:53 am

Soooooooo…..how many religious gatherings has this particular Chief visited in an “official” capacity?

Perhaps she, and her predecessors, are and were incredibly involved in the community and also have stopped by Evangelical gatherings, Passover celebrations, Orthodox holidays, Midnight Mass (in an official capacity of course with their gunbelts on)? Holi can be particularly dangerous, with all that colored dye being tossed about and all…

And I’m assuming the same FBI office also saw fit to attend a similar broad range of religious celebrations in an official capacity?

Or, perhaps, is the Muslim population in this particular community facing a unique, local threat?

Comment by William R. Cumming

July 16, 2013 @ 3:56 am

Deeply troubling to me is the deep deep disrespect all the desert religions of origins in the west seem to have for their women. Why don’t they believe women are equals? Why don’t them condemn violence against innocents? Why are they so hierarchial [sic] in their beliefs? Why do they all seem to want to exclude others even from their vision of salvation? Why do many allow their children to be born into poverty and starvation?

With over 75% of all college grads soon to be women or foreign born by mid-century what will police forces have for their leadership cadre?

Rapes of females increasing although many unreported and Congress trying to dealing with over 3M rape kits used but not processed! HS indeed! Not even safe for women in the Armed Forces.

Cast not the first stone?

Comment by Philip J. Palin

July 16, 2013 @ 7:19 am

I grew up in a religious tradition that had featured female pastors for about 120 years before I was born. It celebrated the leadership of the various Mary’s, Martha’s and more in the first century church. I did not encounter serious patriarchy until entering the workforce in the 1970s… which was certainly a more subtle patriarchy than a generation prior.

But given this background, I have seen misogyny as a cultural — tribal — prejudice, not a spiritual one. Given the prominence of the Prophet’s wife and the Islamic celebration of Maryam, mother of Jesus, I see a similar spiritual-cultural dynamic in Islam.

In regard to a cultural presence for police: This is a core strategy of community policing. It has been demonstrated again and again to be effective. Just last week I was in conversation with a law enforcement intelligence official and he was making the point — unprompted by me — that policing by “walking around” and being deeply embedded in the community was what he really wanted to do more. There are challenges of funding, training, and — perhaps — the kind of skepticism Arnold highlights.

His point was much less a matter of identifying threats and much more a matter of cultivating the positive connections that mitigate risk well before any specific threat emerges.

What I read in the Chief’s post is a recognition we are self-consciously separate: male or female, Muslim or not, white or not, this or that. There is recurring opportunity to be much less separate.

Comment by William R. Cumming

July 16, 2013 @ 7:59 am

Thanks Phil! I always learn from your comments. Wondering how much is expended on a militarized SWATTED police vis a vis community policing?

And how many women are lost to domestic violence each year, spiritually, emotionally, physically, culturally?

Why is domestic violence not tracked closely in aggregated statistics?

Comment by William R. Cumming

July 16, 2013 @ 11:21 am

And thanks unknown POLICE Chief! Too few like you trying outreach!

I just finished watching the TV series NY 22 streamed on NETFLIX. An unusually interesting police show and hope many watch it including police who may or may not like its themes.

There seems to be a growing consensus that HS as currently designed is largely a law enforcement and policing function and activity. IMO if course as always!

Comment by Arnold Bogis

July 16, 2013 @ 2:04 pm

Phil,

I like the concept of community policing and am not accusing every law enforcement organization of profiling. However, isn’t it likely that the aim of much of this outreach to the Muslim community is to develop relationships so that potential radicals are recognized and identified? That’s often the publicly stated case. Contrast that with the close relationship many Jewish communities have with their local police. In one case that sliver of the community is perceived as being a potential source of threat, while in the other it is identified as a potential target of violence.

Being embedded in the entire community would be a positive approach. I simply fear that all members of the community are not looked upon with the same lens. Consider the following from a provocative article (http://www.guernicamag.com/daily/matthew-harwood-political-violence-and-privilege/):

“The evangelical Christians of Greenville County, South Carolina, are afraid.

There has been talk of informants and undercover agents luring young, conservative evangelicals across the South into sham terrorist plots. The feds and the area’s police want to eliminate a particularly extreme strain of evangelical Christianity opposed to abortion, homosexuality, and secularism, whose adherents sometimes use violent imagery and speech. They fear such extreme talk could convince lone wolves or small groups of Christian extremists to target abortion clinics, gay bars, or shopping malls for attack. As a result, law enforcement has flooded these communities with informants meant to provide an early warning system for any signs of such “radicalization.”

Converts, so important to the evangelical movement, are now looked upon with suspicion — the more fervent, the more suspicious. In local barbecue joints, diners, and watering holes, the proprietors are careful not to let FOX News linger onscreen too long, fearing political discussions that could be misconstrued. After all, you can never be too sure who’s listening.

Come Sunday, the ministers who once railed against abortion, gay marriage, and Hollywood as sure signs that the U.S. is descending into godlessness will mute their messages. They will peer out at their congregations and fear that some faces aren’t interested in the Gospel, or maybe are a little too interested in every word. The once vibrant political clubs at Bob Jones University have become lifeless as students whisper about informants and fear a few misplaced words could leave them in a government database or worse.

Naturally, none of this is actually happening to evangelical Christians in South Carolina, across the South, or anywhere else. It would never be tolerated. Yet the equivalents of everything cited above did happen in and around the New York metropolitan area — just not to white, conservative, Christian Americans. But replace them with American Muslims in the New York area and you have a perfect fit, as documented by the recent report Mapping Muslims. And New York is hardly alone.”

Comment by Arnold Bogis

July 16, 2013 @ 2:16 pm

And I should point out that I’m not suggesting that this Police Chief or her department is engaging in the same activities of which the NYPD is accused. Just that unfortunately the Muslim community is still often looked upon differently from others by law enforcement and that this sort of outreach is different than simple community policing.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

July 16, 2013 @ 3:17 pm

Arnold:

Your concerns are valid, even empirically confirmed. This was a big part of why my law enforcement colleague emphasized the need for training. If community policing is merely an elaborate ruse to identity threats it will, over the long term, generate more problems than it is likely to solve. Motivation matters. Authentic engagement matters. Being part of the community in more than a superficial way really matters.

I read the Chief’s post as suggesting the experience had brought some of this forward to her and I wanted to be encouraging. Her motivations sound authentic and helpful. It’s tough in law enforcement — maybe especially for a female Chief — to take on anything that sounds too kumbayah. I was trying to deflect that kind of discouragement. Positive deterrence is as important, (sometimes more important) than negative deterrence. In any case, both approaches to deterrence are needed and positive deterrence is usually the one neglected.

Comment by William R. Cumming

July 16, 2013 @ 8:30 pm

So how about recruiting followers of Islam as police officers? There is at least one Islamic Congressman.

Comment by Christopher Tingus

July 17, 2013 @ 9:20 am

Breaking News:

The Pentagon is starting to touch the third rail of budgetary spending: military compensation, retirement and benefits spending. As Chuck Hagel completes his “listening tour” of troops and their families, a quiet effort has begun to review military retirement and compensation that will grow louder as its work begins to surface. Hagel is finishing up his domestic road trip today, visiting airmen at Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., and then Marines at Camp Lejeune, N.C. Hagel, we’re told, wants to hear from troops and families about the challenges they face during a period of shrinking budgets. He’s listening but he’s also starting slowly to float the idea that compensation benefits and even retirement plans may have to be pared back in order to make the Pentagon’s ledgers add up. Personnel costs alone cost the services between 55 and 65 percent of their budgets and rising – a fact the Pentagon brass say they’ve been saddled with for years. But now as budgets tighten, it’s a fact that can’t be ignored.

A group takes form. Earlier this month, a group called the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission, created under the fiscal 2013 defense bill, held an organizational meeting. It’s a little-known group that has been given a tremendous task: to review the existing benefits package for service members and recommend changes. The group will be seen as a failure if it doesn’t suggest serious ways to reign in benefits spending. And even as budget cuts look at trimming the number of personnel within at least some of the services, the Pentagon leadership is looking for other ways to create a more financially sustainable Defense Department. “I think this could be an extremely important mission, assuming Congress listens to it,” said one official familiar with the group. Read more about this including who’s on the new group, below.

Hagel yesterday ordered a big cut to brass and senior civilians. The Pentagon chief announced yesterday that he would make a 20 percent cut in the number of top brass and senior civilians at the Pentagon’s Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff and service headquarters over the next six years. This could mean dropping as many as 5,000 jobs in a Pentagon that was considered increasingly top heavy – a vestige of a dozen years of war – and the spending that went with it. Initial estimates of the kinds of savings it would produce run as high as $2 billion. Pentagon Press Secretary George Little, in a statement: “Personnel reductions associated with these savings will be determined during the development of detailed execution plans. Secretary Hagel’s announcement is based on the work of the Strategic Choices and Management Review, which scrutinized the Department’s spending priorities and determined that these headquarters reductions should be pursued now, regardless of future fiscal circumstances. These cuts will be implemented even if Congress lifts sequester-level budget caps.”

Comment by William R. Cumming

July 17, 2013 @ 10:09 am

Thanks Chris! All 20 and out retirement plans in the federal government should be reviewed to determine whether in fact they are highly hazardous and risky employments!

Over 1/2 of all DHS FTE’s [full time equivalents/ can retire after 20 years of service.

Comment by Street Cop

July 17, 2013 @ 3:28 pm

Perhaps I am missing something. I have read the annonymous Chief’s post at least four times and never once got the impression that she was trying to infiltrate the Mosque. My immediate reaction was that she was invited by the Imam. To me, the article was very introspective and honest. To borrow from Covey, she was seeking to understand before being understood and, in the end, I think she did leave with some understanding.

My kind of Chief…I could work for her.

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