Folks, this is something REALLY to get worried about.
L.A. officials defend mapping of Muslim areas
City officials this morning defended the LAPD's decision to identify Muslim enclaves across the city, saying that instead of "mapping," Angelenos should see the program as "community engagement."
Civil rights groups have harshly criticized the new initiative as racial profiling that unfairly targets Muslims. The American Civil Liberties Union along with other community groups sent a letter to the LAPD this week saying the prospect of such a measure raised "grave concerns."
At a press conference about police recruitment in Elysian Park, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Police Chief William Bratton and Councilman Jack Weiss said they stood behind Deputy Chief Michael P. Downing's decision to gather extensive intelligence about local Muslim communities.
"Chief Downing has good intentions here," said Villaraigosa, who added that he had only learned of the new program through newspaper articles and at a short briefing.
The Police Department respects "the civil and human rights of Muslims in Los Angeles," Villaraigosa said.
The mapping program would be headed by Downing, who is in charge of the LAPD's anti-terrorism bureau.
"We want to map the locations of these closed, vulnerable communities, and in partnership with these communities . . . help [weave] these enclaves into the fabric of the larger society," Downing said in testimony about the program before Congress on Oct. 30.
At the hearing, Downing said his intentions were to "mitigate radicalization," and that law enforcement agencies everywhere faced "a vicious, amorphous and unfamiliar adversary on our land."
The LAPD hopes to identify communities that "may be susceptible to violent, ideologically based extremism and then use a full-spectrum approach guided by an intelligence-led strategy," Downing said during the hearing.
Bratton tried to recast the program this morning, saying that incorrect words had been used to describe the LAPD's actions.
"We are seeking contact with many communities," he said. "We are doing it in a very transparent way here. We got hung up on the word 'mapping', this is 'community engagement.' "
Bratton then used an anecdote from his first days as police commissioner in New York City in the early 1990s, saying that officers there raided what appeared to be a store but turned out instead to be a mosque.
Police can sometimes be ignorant of what is actually in their neighborhood, Bratton said, referencing the officers' mistake. The new initiative is designed to get officers out into communities, meeting with people and learning the local landscape, he said.
City officials repeatedly praised the LAPD for its transparency in describing the program, but police have yet to give any details of how the mapping would be carried out or which communities would be affected.
"Right concern, wrong program," Weiss said.
Concerns over clandestine racial profiling and spying by law enforcement are important concerns but do not apply to Downing's initiative, Weiss said. "This is not a program of subterfuge, it is a program of transparency."
Salam Al-Marayati, executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, has embraced the vaguely defined program "in concept" and was on hand this morning to support the city officials. In an earlier interview, Al-Marayati said he wanted to know more about the plan and that he would meet with the LAPD next week.
Other Muslim groups have harshly condemned the project.
"We certainly reject this idea completely," Shakeel Syed, executive director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, said in an earlier interview. "This stems basically from this presumption that there is homogenized Muslim terrorism that exists among us."
CAIR Los Angeles statement: Muslim, Civil Rights Groups Oppose LAPD ‘Mapping’ Project
Letter from Muslim Leaders to the LAPD
MPAC statement: MPAC Opposes Racial Profiling, Awaits Meeting to Discuss Specifics of LAPD
Youtube: CAIR Reaction to LAPD "Mapping" LA Muslims. Listen to the moderator, "They want to find out who's there, where they live, that's all. They're not going after individually any one person" Do you see the contradiction? BTW, Hussam Ayloush spoke brilliantly at the CAIR banquet last evening.