Wave Wire Services
LOS ANGELES — The City Council voted March 9 to authorize the Los Angeles Police Department to accept a $250,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security through the Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention Program.
The money will be used to update the curriculum for the department’s Providing Alternatives To Hinder Extremism Program training, according to a report by the city administrative officer.
That program “seeks to utilize a risk assessment measure to identify and assess prospective individuals, address their specific needs, link them to appropriate services across agencies and community resources, as well as follow up contacts to determine if the interventions have reduced their risk of reactivation on a trajectory or pathway to violence,” according to the report.
Training under the program is provided to public safety personnel, mental health professionals and school counselors. The curriculum will be updated to reflect the objectives of raising awareness of “radicalization to violence” and to help personnel know how to contact threat assessment and management teams.
Several people called into the council meeting to oppose the city accepting the grant, and Council members Mike Bonin and Nithya Raman voted against the authorization.
“Despite the LAPD’s claims that this grant will help them fight white supremacy and ‘domestic terrorism,’ it will be a vehicle for LAPD to racially profile youth of color with pseudoscientific ‘risk assessments,’” the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition said in a statement to City News Service. “The LAPD will select and train 500 community members, including teachers, counselors, and clergy, to identify people — especially youth — deemed to be on a pathway to violence and open them up for more scrutiny from law enforcement, as Councilmember Bonin warned today.”
Bonin urged his colleagues to vote no on the program, saying it was born out of the former Countering Violent Extremism program, which “has been riddled with problems [and] has been a program that has historically targeted and discriminated against people from the Muslim community.
“What the federal government has done over the past couple of years is they have tried to rebrand this, but they haven’t really changed it all that much,” Bonin said. “Just to be clear, the way this works is it actually seeks to identify teachers and counselors and faith leaders, social workers, health care professionals, to get them to help identify people that meet certain criteria and then would have them subjected to more scrutiny from law enforcement.”
Bonin added that the broad criteria of what to look out for left room for people to be victims of systemic bias.
The program was created during the Trump administration and continued under President Joe Biden, although Biden said on his 2020 campaign website that he would end it.
Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, who voted to authorize acceptance of the grant, said he was “particularly concerned about this,” noting that he knows people who have been illegally surveilled by the Los Angeles Police Department, resulting in more than one successful lawsuit against the city.
He voted for the grant, however, after his office went through the program “line by line by line” and was satisfied with what the LAPD said it would be used for.
“I want the record to show that they assured, at least Council District 8, that it was not looking at people’s religious background, that frankly, it wasn’t much more than a training program for officers that lasted less than a week,” Harris-Dawson said.
The LAPD will use $170,000 from the grant for sworn overtime for training and outreach activities, $75,000 to contract with the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health for the provision of training services by a mental health worker and $5,000 for office supplies, according to the report presented to council.