DURHAM, N.C. – A North Carolina city council voted Monday to prohibit its police department from engaging in international exchanges with agencies whose officers receive military-style training.
News outlets report the Durham City Council voted 6-0 for a policy that resulted from a petition by a coalition of groups, including Jewish Voice for Peace, seeking a ban on any partnership the department might enter into with Israeli defense forces or the Israel police. Proponents say Israeli tactics promote racial bias and police militarization.
“I hope this spreads,” Hillsborough resident Debra Rosenstein told the council during her turn at the podium. Speakers from other cities were allowed to speak at the meeting.
“Because all of us who care about fighting racism, and all of us who care about trying to have democracy maintained or exist in this country — we need to not have militarized police forces,” Rosenstein said.
Hillsborough is about 15 miles (24 km) northwest of Durham.
Some opponents viewed the petition as a display of anti-Semitism. The Fraternal Order of Police lodge wrote to the council opposing the petition, saying it serves “to push their anti-police agenda.”
A police spokesman said the department hasn’t engaged in any exchanges with Israel and doesn’t plan to. WRAL-TV reports former Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez spent a week in Israel undergoing training.
“None of the training had anything to do with militarization,” Lopez said. “It was about leadership, it was learning about terrorism and then learning about how to interact with people who are involved in mass casualty situations and how to manage mass casualty situations.”
Lopez also said while he was chief, two of his commanders went to Washington, D.C., to receive training from Israeli police, and he felt the experiences were valuable.