A program that will urge workers in Orange County such as cable TV installers and firefighters to report suspicious or illegal activities they spot in private homes will be rewritten after complaints the plan would target Arab-Americans.
The Orange County Sheriff’s office has already printed 5,000 training brochures outlining the Citizen Awareness Program, which seeks to train workers who regularly enter private homes to identify signs of terrorism, drug trafficking and child pornography. But law enforcement officials will now scrap the brochures — one week after the Florida ACLU and others labeled the effort as an attempt to create a citizen spy network that would infringe on privacy rights.
The sharpest criticism came from Arab-Americans, who said language in the brochure amounted to racial profiling because it said several adult males “usually of Middle Eastern appearance” who live together with little or no furnishings could be a sign of international terrorism.
The brochures will be rewritten and references to specific ethnic groups will be removed from the final version, said Joyce Dawley, regional director for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and co-chairman of the Central Florida’s Domestic Security Task Force, which oversees the program”¦
The Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations tried and failed to get a copy of the program brochure from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, according to spokesman Ahmed Bedir. The group is still trying to schedule a meeting with FDLE to discuss the plan.The Florida ACLU is also largely in the dark, said Scott Rost, Central Florida chapter chairman. But he said the Citizens Awareness Program is probably unfixable.