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Small Win of a High Calibre

Santa Clara Sheriff Cancels Participation in Police Militarization Training

By Stephen McNeil

The Oakland Privacy Working Group achieved a victory in July to stem the tide of police militarization.

Aside from the well-known negative impacts of the federal 1033 military equipment transfers, militarized police trainings are a huge obstacle to changing the culture of policing in the United States. While the militarization role of Urban Shield that are Homeland Security-funded trainings is somewhat known, private training companies such as Calibre Press and The Clarion Project operate throughout the country with little notice. In August Ray Mauro of The Clarion Project brings his right-wing Islamophobia messages to the California Association of Tactical Officers after have presented at the New York Association in April.

Jeronimo Yanez, the police officer who shot and killed Philando Castile in Minnesota, received training from Calibre Press, it was disclosed earlier in the month. Michael Becar, the leader of an international police training association, says “seminars like those offered by Calibre and other firms foster a sense of paranoia among officers.” Calibre recently changed the name of its Bulletproof Warrior course after complaints from police departments about the implications of the word ‘warrior.’ The two-day session was scheduled for August 17-18, under the sponsorship of the Santa Clara Sheriff's Department.

Oakland Privacy, a group of advocates for civil and privacy rights, had been reading about Calibre (pronounced “caliber”) and their street survival courses for cops, when a colleague at the Bill of Rights Defense Committee noticed the near-by Santa Clara County Sheriff was offering the Bulletproof Warrior training in a few weeks.

The community groups alerted all the county supervisors and sent a notice to the San Jose Mercury News, and the San Jose Peace and Justice Center agreed to host an organizing meeting. Peter Kraska, Professor and Chair of the School of Justice Studies at Eastern Kentucky University, and an expert on police militarization, sent a video of his testimony about Calibre before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

Peter Kraska, chairman of the School of Justice Studies at Eastern Kentucky University, call the company’s seminars “irresponsible” and “dangerous.” Kraska’s research focuses on the militarization of U.S. law enforcement, which he traces to the war on drugs. To Kraska, the training is an unexplored factor in the deadly confrontations taking place across the United States between police and civilians. “It’s a huge missing explanatory part of what’s going on, Kraska testified.

The community demand was to cancel the training, and County Sheriff Laurie Smith did withdraw her department’s sponsorship on July 27. Smith said the training had not been vetted thoroughly by her Department and that cancellation of the Department’s participation was under consideration when they started receiving calls from community members.

"Especially in light of the killing of another police officer in San Diego and the assault on law enforcement that is occurring nationwide by dangerous criminals," Smith said in a statement, “our department must work to provide the most effective training to ensure every sheriff's deputy has the best chance of being safe and returning to their families when their shift is completed.

"Any training we sponsor must align with the values of our office to be peacemakers first and warriors second and unfortunately the recently cancelled training class was not vetted fully to ensure that it aligned with our departmental values."

Smith told Oakland Privacy member Susan Harman that she shared some of the community's concerns and would raise them among national sheriffs' associations.

See also: "Where the Bulletproof Warrior Went", 18 August 2016.

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