Police guide saying BLMis an extremist group draws outrage
IOWA CITY, Iowa— A prominent law enforcement training group is promoting a lengthy research document riddled with falsehoods and conspiracies that urges local police to treat Black Lives Matter activists as terrorists plotting a violent revolution.
The document distributed by the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association contains misinformation and inflammatory rhetoric that could incite officers against protesters and people of color, critics said.
It alleges Black Lives Matter and antifa, an umbrella term for leftist militants, are “revolutionary movements whose aims are to overthrow the U.S. government” and claims they are planning “extreme violence.”
Phillip Atiba Goff, a
Yale University professor who is an expert on racial bias in policing, called the document dangerous, noting that the association is an important source of training materials for many small and midsize departments across the country.
“It’s stunning. It’s distressing in many ways. It’s untethered to reality,” said Goff, CEO of the Center for Policing Equity. “I worry that it leads to people dying unnecessarily.”
In October, the association sent a link to the 176-page paper, “Understanding Antifa and Urban Guerrilla Warfare,” in an email news update to its thousands of members. The document, labeled “restricted to law enforcement only,” is one of the few publicly available materials on its website. The Associated Press learned of the document from one of the policing organization’s members.
The group’s executive director, Harvey Hedden, defended the document, which he called one member’s opinion and open for critique and debate. He said the association supports the exchange of ideas and strategies to improve criminal justice training but does not endorse specific approaches.
Hedden argued that fact-checking the paper or restricting its distribution would amount to censorship and that its publication would allow for peer review by other trainers.
“There will always be differences of opinion on
training issues, but so long as the disagreements remain professional and not personal, we do not censor these ideas,” he said. “I am willing to allow the trainer to evaluate the information themselves.”
He added, “Just like law enforcement, I am afraid BLM has earned some of these criticisms and others might be overgeneralizations.”
The Black Lives Matter movement emerged in 2013 after the acquittal of the Florida man who fatally shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, and exploded in size and influence earlier this year after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.
Protests across the nation were largely peaceful but occasionally marked by fighting with police or the destruction of property.
Since then, many activists have been working to reduce the scope and cost of local police departments and overhaul police training.
The law enforcement association, known by its nickname ILEETA, says in amission statement that it’s “committed to the reduction of law enforcement risk” and saving lives through high-quality training.
The association promotes its annual conference, set for St. Louis in March, as the “largest gathering of law enforcement trainers in the world.”
It publishes a research journal, provides other educational and training materials, and operates a Facebook page for members to network and share ideas.
An official with Color of Change, a nationwide racial justice organization, called on police departments Wednesday to cut training ties with the association, saying it encourages warrior attitudes that create more conflict in communities.
“This is disturbing to read but not at all surprising to me. This is the type of thinking that is sadly pretty prominent within police culture,” said Scott Roberts, its senior director of criminal justice campaigns.