Police, Catholic Charities Asked to Reject Controversial Training on Somalis

stock-police(MINNEAPOLIS, MN, 3/4/2013) -- The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN) today called on Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Saint Cloud and the Waite Park Police Department to reject a controversial law enforcement training the agencies are hosting at Waite Park City Offices on March 5.

The law enforcement training, "Understanding the People of Somalia," has generated negative publicity due to the Somali and Muslim community's claims that the presentation materials and trainers "lack credibility," and that the training "blames Islam and Muslims for the actions of extremists." The event flyer, which names Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Saint Cloud and the Waite Park Police Department, refers to the terrorist organization Al Shabaab as an "Islamic" organization.

In November 2011, more than 30 Twin Cities Somali and Muslim organizations challenged the credibility of the seminar in Minneapolis. Police departments across the state declined to participate.

SEE: Muslim groups to Bob Fletcher: There's No 'Islam' in Terrorism (Minnesota Public Radio)

Groups Object to St. Paul Somali Seminar, Call It Anti-Muslim (Pioneer Press)

In May 2012, Mankato Somali leaders announced that the seminar was canceled after they met with city leaders to discuss the controversial content of the seminar. As a result, leaders stated that all of the organizers pulled their support of the seminar.

Reports have highlighted law enforcement's use of biased experts and anti-Muslim training materials nationwide. The United States Congress has scrutinized these practices.

SEE: Congress Grills FBI Chief About Anti-Islam Trainings

"Terrorism is a real threat to our nation and law enforcement needs to be educated about that threat," said CAIR-MN Executive Director Lori Saroya. "Law enforcement and other agencies must look at the credentials and backgrounds of purported ‘experts' on Somalis and Muslims before allowing their officers to be trained by them."

Seminar organizer and key trainer, former Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher, is referred to by City Pages as "Ramsey County's most controversial cop."

In 2011, a Star Tribune article stated that "Ramsey County's new sheriff is suggesting that his predecessor [Bob Fletcher] exaggerated or falsified his investigation of domestic and international terrorism threats in the east metro."

In an interview with the Twin Cities Daily Planet, a spokesman for the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office stated that Fletcher's claims that Ramsey County residents were threatened by 22 domestic and 11 international terrorist groups "came from an active imagination" and that the Terrorism Information Briefs "never existed."

City Pages stated that "Fletcher's office apparently dreamed up the whole idea that his jurisdiction was under threat from dozens of domestic and international terrorism groups" and that "the research was done by staffers cruising the internet and watching CNN."

It further states: "It's hardly the first time Fletcher and his office have been at the center of controversy. Some of his department's handiwork was employed in the run-up to the 2008 Republican National Convention, when he directed preemptive raids against Twin Cities activists who later became known as the RNC 8. Two years after they were arrested in the guns-drawn raid, the cases against them fizzled."

SEE: Meet Bob Fletcher: Ramsey County's Most Controversial Cop (City Pages)
Fletcher Defends Terror Probe (Star Tribune)
Those 33 Terrorist Groups in Ramsey County? It Was 'A Very Big Lie' (Twin Cities Daily Planet)
Bob Fletcher, Former Ramsey County Sheriff, Fictionalized Terrorism Reports (City Pages)

The March 5 training flyer features "in-depth information regarding [terrorist organization Al-Shabaab's] creation, leadership, activities and recruitment in the United States."

ACTION REQUESTED:

Contact Catholic Charities and the Waite Park Police Department and tell them that trainings by unqualified, agenda-driven individuals influence the way peace officers perceive and treat the American Muslim community, leading to a rise in racial and religious profiling.

Click here to sign your name to our letter or to add your own message.

CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

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CONTACT: CAIR-MN Executive Director Lori Saroya, 612-327-6700, [email protected]; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-488-8787, 202-744-7726, ih[email protected]

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