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U.S. Police Chiefs Visit Israel to Learn How to Fight Terror Threats

A group of American police chiefs, including those from cities recently struck by devastating terror attacks, are visiting Israel to learn advanced counter-terrorism techniques, The Jerusalem Post reported on Wednesday.

About a dozen senior law enforcement officials — including the police chief of Orlando, Florida and the sheriff of San Bernardino County, California — arrived in Israel on Sunday as part of a week-long training program, which was organized by the Anti-Defamation League. The group will attend several seminars every day and take part in training exercises.

“We bring top-level law enforcement from the States to Israel to learn about civil society here, the role that law enforcement plays in terms of protecting communities with regard to terrorism, and to provide a better sense to American law enforcement about Israel,” explained Oren Segal, who heads the ADL’s Center on Extremism. Part of what Segal tries to show is that people in Israel “are like people everywhere.”

“To actually bring people here to experience the day-to-day and learn from academics and Israeli police officials… makes the State of Israel a little more real to them, and they get a better sense of what life is really like here,” he added.

Senior U.S. law enforcement officials with Israeli counterparts in Jerusalem

John Mina, the police chief of Orlando, where a gunman killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in June, said that his desire to come to Israel was fueled by that attack. “After what happened, it made me want to come to Israel even more, just to learn more from the Israeli Police to see how they deal with terrorism, how they respond to it, and see what their training is like,” he explained.

Mina, whose father is Lebanese and was born in Haifa, said that Israel provides an excellent example as to how American law enforcement agencies can combat terrorist threats. “Unfortunately, it seems like there are so many attacks that they have a clear sense of what they’re dealing with. We have great respect for how they approach terrorism, and how they train and respond to it.”

“I like the way the Israeli Police pretty much go right after the threat, and in the US we are heading in the same direction, especially with our situation. Also, over here they don’t negotiate [with terrorists], and I think that’s the way to go,” he continued. He was particularly impressed by how Israel Police dispatches pairs of officers on motorcycles to swiftly address potential threats, and how the force monitors threats on social media. “People in the States are using social media and getting this idea in their heads to carry out their own attacks,” he noted. “That is one of our greatest threats right now, and Israel is excellent at dealing with that.”

John McMahon, sheriff of San Bernardino County, California, where a couple who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State killed 14 people and wounded 22 more, likewise said: “To come over and interact with the Israeli National Police to see how they deal with the multiple cultures, the extremism, and terrorism, is an opportunity of a lifetime for us.”

“We’re very good with intelligence and the things that we’re used to,” he added. “This is a new world for us, and so we can learn a lot from the Israel Police, and the folks in Israel, because this is something they’ve been dealing with for a number of years, and they have a lot of experience to share.”

Last month, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed rejected calls from anti-Israel campaigners to refrain from training with Israeli police forces. “I’m not going to do that,” Reed said. “I happen to believe that the Israeli police department has some of the best counter-terrorism techniques in the world, and it benefits our police department from our long-standing relationship.”

Fifty retired military leaders wrote to President Barack Obama in May 2010 that “American police and law enforcement officials have reaped the benefit of close cooperation with Israeli professionals in the areas of domestic counter-terrorism practices and first response to terrorist attacks.” Their comments echoed those of multiple U.S. law enforcement officials who previously participated in such programs.

[Photo: Nati Shohat / Flash90 ]