These profiles of police departments around the country provide an overview of the harmful impacts of the close ties between U.S. police departments and Israeli security forces, including some specific ways that police exchange programs have enhanced those relationships and the exchange of worst practices. We will continue to add to these case studies with ongoing research. Send your questions and ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.
New York Police Department and Israel
The deep relationship between the New York Police Department and Israel has been greatly strengthened over the last two decades, as the NYPD has sought Israeli expertise in counterterrorism and as Israeli police have looked to New York for their “broken windows” model of community policing.
Since 2002, the New York Police Department has blurred the work of urban policing, counterterrorism and intelligence to a degree that is unprecedented for any American police department. This transformation included the creation of the infamous “Demographics Unit,” which ran a secret program monitoring Muslim communities that was revealed in a Pulitzer-winning series by the Associated Press in 2011. In this program – sprawling from NYC all the way to Canada – the NYPD treated basic acts of daily living as potential crimes, surveilling Muslims in their homes, mosques, schools, restaurants, coffee shops, and universities.
The surveillance, use of informants, and predictive policing tactics embraced by the NYPD are paralleled in Israeli tactics used to police and occupy Palestinians. Ties between the NYPD and Israel, enhanced by police exchange programs, were critical to the development of the relationships, ideas, and technologies that underlie the NYPD spying program and the blurring of domestic policing and counterterrorism in New York. Lawrence Sanchez, the CIA official who helped develop the spying program, reportedly told colleagues it was partly modeled on how Israeli authorities operate in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Since 2002, the NYPD has been sending officers to Israel for trainings and sharing surveillance information with Israeli agencies, both directly and through trips facilitated by non-governmental organizations.
The intensive surveillance of Muslim communities in New York went hand in hand with the intensification of profiling tactics like stop-and-frisk used primarily against communities of color. Since the 1990s, the NYPD has followed a “broken windows” model of policing which, like the Muslim spying program, results in aggressive monitoring and criminalization of whole communities of color as a “preventive” measure. Just as the mapping of Muslim communities arose out of inaccurate and bigoted theories about radicalization, stop-and-frisk grew out of the “broken windows” theory. The theory holds that low level disorder is an indication of future crime, and is used as a justification for the targeting of Black and brown communities with constant police surveillance, harassment, and arrest. Both of these applications of predictive policing rely on comprehensive data collection on entire communities, which is then further used to track and criminalize people. As the report Civil Rights, Big Data and Our Algorithmic Future notes, such systems falsely fulfill their own prophecies because they “may also create an echo chamber effect as crimes in heavily policed areas are more likely to be detected than the same offenses committed elsewhere…leading to statistics that overstate the concentration of crime, which can in turn bias allocations of future resources.” Predictive policing–whether through “broken windows” or mass surveillance–has been challenged by activists, social scientists and civil libertarians.
In recent years, Israeli police have started adopting a broken windows approach to policing, adding yet another dimension of discriminatory policing and detention to the paramilitary and spying practices they’ve always used. It’s clear that the relationship between the NYPD and Israel, facilitated in large part by police exchange programs, has greatly contributed to developments such as the Knesset passing a Stop and Frisk law and the Israeli police adopting the Compstat program used by the NYPD to implement and track their broken windows approach to community policing. In 2013, as the NYPD was embroiled in federal civil rights lawsuit for their harassment of communities of color through stop-and-frisk, top Israeli police were traveling to NY to study the program. Donna Lieberman, ED of the NYCLU said at the time “Israel is showing an incredible lack of concern for community relations if they’re trying to emulate broken windows policing and out of control stop-and-frisk practices.”
The Anti-Defamation League, along with the Jewish Institute for National Security of America and other mainstream Jewish organizations, positioned itself as a key facilitator of this close relationship between the NYPD and Israel. This has included funding and facilitating trips for top NYPD officers to Israel to learn from Israeli agencies and private security companies. For example, between 2010 – 2016, NYPD officers participated in at least five of the ADL’s National Counter-Terrorism Seminars (NCTS) in Israel and NYPD officers have participated in many of their Advanced Training School (ATS) sessions which bring Israeli experts to train law enforcement in the U.S.
Four key examples of program participants illustrate the important role police exchange programs with Israel have played:
Ray Kelly. Ray Kelly was the longest-serving NYPD Commissioner, and his legacy consists of two major, and connected, fronts: expanding stop-and-frisk policing which targeted young Black and Latino men for police harassment, and overseeing the creation of the largest police spying operation in U.S. history, targeting Muslim communities on the basis of their religion, in NYC and beyond. This portfolio led Ta-Nehisi Coates to describe Kelly as “the proprietor of the largest local racial profiling operation in the country.” If Kelly’s connection to the Islamophobic far-right wasn’t evidenced enough in his policies, he also appeared in a film “The Third Jihad” by the extremely Islamophobic Clarion Fund, which was also used for NYPD training. Ray Kelly’s commitment to deepening the relationship between the NYPD and Israel was made clear in his choice to send so many officers on the NCTS, ATS and other training programs in Israel. And the admiration has always been mutual. In 2013, Israel Police Chief Yochanan Danino visited the NYPD to learn from Kelly about broken windows policing, saying “There is no reason that we can’t be like the NYPD.” The ADL was proud to promote these connections & Kelly’s approach to policing. It honored Kelly in 2014 for his “leadership” in the “establishment of the first counterterrorism bureau of any municipal police department in the country.”
Thomas Galati. Galati is the chief of the NYPD’s intelligence department and oversaw the Demographics Unit’s spying on Muslim communities. He is another example of the kind of high-ranking officer who participated in these programs. He traveled to Israel on a NCTS trip in 2010. At the time, Galati “manage[d] almost 800 officers and analysts” in New York and foreign NYPD posts, illustrating the widespread impact of such trainings with top officials. In 2011, the ADL honored Galati for “outstanding achievements in combating terrorism, extremism, and injustice,” even after the the public had learned of the Demographics Unit’s controversial tactics. By 2012, Galati conceded to federal civil rights investigators that the Demographics Unit’s spying program had not led to any actual investigations. Yet in 2013, the ADL’s then head Abe Foxman still went on the record rationalizing blanket spying of American Muslims.
William (“Bill”) Bratton. In 2010 the ADL honored Kelly’s successor Bill Bratton, the architect of Broken Windows policing, and they failed to join other Jewish groups in condemning its most infamous component, stop-and-frisk, which has been deadly for People of Color in the U.S. Before coming to New York, Bratton had made multiple official trips to Israel in his role as Los Angeles police chief to learn about its counter-terrorism tactics and to share about his approach to broken windows policing, telling an LA town hall meeting the the “close relationship” with Israeli intelligence experts “has been one of growing strength and importance.”
James O’Neill. Current NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill was groomed as a successor to his longtime colleague and mentor Bill Bratton. In 2015, O’Neill went on a 10-day delegation to Israel with the hawkish Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA).
In a period in which Ray Kelly and his deputy David Cohen brought a CIA operative to work unaccountably from inside its walls, the NYPD was reinforcing the normalcy of this civil rights nightmare by training in Israel, a country where military and intelligence agencies have nearly free reign to violate their Palestinian targets’ human rights. The Israeli surveillance program that apparently inspired New York City’s is carried out by the Shin Bet and other unaccountable agencies, on occupied Palestinian subjects who have none of the legal protections that all New Yorkers are supposed to have. At the same time, Israel has looked to NYPD style broken windows policing as an addition to their arsenal of tactics against Palestinians. As Chief O’Neill’s recent trip to Israel indicates, the NYPD-Israel deadly exchange continues apace.
Los Angeles Police Department and Israel
Police brutality in Los Angeles has a long history, with the brutal beating of Rodney King in 1991 widely seen as a central impetus for massive protests against police violence against people of color and legislative efforts to hold police accountable. The LAPD began moving to a model of “broken windows” policing in 2006, under William Bratton’s tenure as police chief. As in New York, this policing approach grows from the idea that constant policing of low-level disorder–through the targeting of Black and brown communities with constant police surveillance, harassment–will somehow deter serious criminal activity. In Los Angeles, Bratton initially tested this approach in concert with the business lobbies in the downtown area, where he sent 50-officer strong sweeps of Skid Row. In those initial sweeps, as in the continuation of the program over the last decade, most of those arrested were taken in on minor offenses like drug use or sitting on the sidewalk. The vast majority of those apprehended were homeless people, many suffering from addiction and mental illness. During his tenure, Bratton would go on to carry out many such “quality of life sweeps”, resulting in mass displacement of homeless and mentally ill residents. He also oversaw a two-fold increase in stop-and-frisks by the LAPD.
The Los Angeles Police Department has deep ties to Israel, fostered by a variety of exchange programs facilitated by nonprofits as well as direct exchanges between police officials and their Israeli counterparts. The LAPD first sent officers to Israel in 2002, and Los Angeles Deputy Chief Michael Bostic participated in JINSA’s first ever Law Enforcement Exchange Program soon after. Law enforcement officers from Los Angeles have also participated in the ADL’s annual National Counter-Terrorism Seminars, including in 2010 and 2013 as well as multiple sessions of the ADL’s Advanced Training School. The close relationship between the LAPD and Israel was encouraged by multiple trips to Israel by police chief William Bratton during his tenure from 2002 to 2009. When criticized for his frequent travels ahead of another planned trip to Israel, Bratton told the Los Angeles Times in 2006: “There is a value to Los Angeles. Oftentimes it results in money coming to the city. New ideas are brought back.”
These “new ideas” include technologies of mass surveillance that appeal to police but present clear threats to civil rights. The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles reported in 2014 on the reactions of LAPD officers who traveled to Israel and met with Israeli security companies, drone manufacturers, and Israeli police and military on a trip organized by i-HLS, the Israeli homeland-security news site. LAPD Deputy Chief Jose Perez spoke of the department’s technology “wish list,” including a drone called the HoverMast, made by the Israeli company Spy Sapience, which can intercept wireless communications and is capable of facial recognition. Officials have acknowledged the civil liberties concerns with such technology. Horace Frank, commander of the LAPD Information Technology (IT) Bureau noted that the HoverMast “has its challenges: from a political standpoint, convincing our political leaders, and from a community standpoint, convincing the community that it’s not Big Brother watching over you.” The American Civil Liberties Union and other rights groups have expressed strong concerns over the use of such technology, and a local campaign in Los Angeles has mobilized around opposition to LAPD’s spying and specifically its use of drones.
The relationship fostered by police exchange programs has also brought new ideas to Israeli police. Through the ongoing relationships brokered by exchange programs, Israeli police are drawing on LAPD experience over-policing communities of color in Los Angeles. We can see this through Israeli adoption of a “broken windows” approach to policing, adding yet another dimension of discriminatory policing and detention to the paramilitary and spying practices they’ve always used. William Bratton, in particular, has helped build these connections and exchanges.
Here, some key examples of program participants illustrate the important role police exchange programs have played in developing the deep relationship between the LAPD and Israel.
Ralph Morten, a Los Angeles police detective on the bomb squad and the Joint Terrorism Task Force, traveled to Israel in 2002 to train directly with the Israeli National Police and the militarized police unit Yasam, and has made 4 trips since then. Underlining the significant impact of these trainings, the Washington Post reported in 2005 that Morten has conducted more than 1,000 training sessions for more than 25,000 police, fire and military personnel based on what he learned in Israel. Lt. Col. Patrick Malay, director of the Special Operations Training Group for the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton, called Morten a “front-line fighter in the global war on terror,” demonstrating the extent to which these exchanges deepen the blurring of lines between war and policing, to the detriment of local communities and civil rights.
Patrick M. Gannon, the head of the Los Angeles World Airports Chief of Police, attended an ADL NCTS delegation in 2013. Gannon said in an ADL statement that “The trip to Israel was a remarkable opportunity to actually see for myself the serious issues facing Israel and its neighbors. In particular, I was impressed with local law enforcement and the effort they make to treat all factions in Israel with respect and dignity.” Gannon’s approval shows either that he did not learn about the brazen and extensive profiling of Muslims, Arabs, Arab-Americans and others at Israeli airports, which the State Department has condemned, or that he did learn about such practices and found them fit to praise. His praise is alarming given that profiling has been a major problem in U.S. airports including LAX. A TSA official told a Senate committee in 2016 that many of the agency’s practices are informed by Israeli airport security, which explicitly include race and ethnicity as factors warranting additional scrutiny.
Richard Webb, Los Angeles Police Department Commander, has a history of racial bias, including being sued for displaying a noose in his office and using racial slurs, which prompted Black LAPD officers to protest his promotion in 2007. In spite of protest, Webb now manages 120 investigators and (ironically) oversees investigations of police abuse. In 2012, Webb participated in Project Interchange, a U.S./Israel police exchange program run by the American Jewish Committee. Webb praised the lessons learned from his trip: “The Israelis are considered world leaders and innovators in counter terrorism and security. My experiences in meeting with the various experts and leaders confirm they not only are experts, they are pragmatic and collaborative. Equally as important they do their duties while vigilantly protecting human rights. I will take many lessons I learned back to Los Angeles. I observed several new techniques for security operations including multi-level security measures at an international airport.” Webb’s observations about Israeli concern for human rights does not reflect the regular findings of human rights groups. For instance, Webb’s trip to Israel included a visit to Megiddo prison, where Israel holds Palestinian “security prisoners,” including many Palestinian child prisoners. In 2013, an adult Palestinian detainee died at Megiddo, prompting calls for investigation and a finding from a pathologist that he died from torture, which has long been practiced by the Shin Bet at Megiddo and elsewhere.
William (“Bill”) Bratton. As Los Angeles police chief between 2002 and 2009, Bratton made numerous trips to Israel to exchange ideas about counterterrorism and broken windows policing. Bratton is known as the architect of “broken windows” policing, which has been credited with contributing to a rise in racial profiling and mass incarceration. As detailed above, Bratton’s major focus in LA was to apply this theory of predictive policing to the harm of Black and brown communities in the city. Following his tenure in Los Angeles, Bratton became police commissioner in New York City, where he helped implement predictive policing theories like “broken windows” and tactics like stop-and-frisk, which target communities of color. His deep relationship with Israel is evident not only in the multiple exchange trips he took through various organizations and on public funds, but also in his valorization of Israeli policing and surveillance tactics throughout his career. In 2014, Bratton was the keynote speaker at Israel’s first ever “National Conference on Personal Security,” which he opened by proclaiming “We are fortunate in the United States and Israel to live in the world’s two strongest democracies.” In 2010 the ADL honored Bill Bratton for his lifetime of service.
The ties between the Los Angeles Police Department and Israel, fostered by these exchange programs, are extremely unsettling given the efforts of the two governments to emulate one another. In Israel, police have borrowed technological and tactical approaches from LAPD’s community policing model. And In LA, law enforcement is adopting discriminatory profiling and surveillance modeled on Israeli airport practices.
In 2007, the Los Angeles Police Department reportedly was proposing a project of mapping Muslim communities across the city, similar to the concurrent secret surveillance program conducted by the NYPD’s Demographics Unit that was reportedly inspired by Israel’s surveillance methods in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The proposal drew public outcry from civil libertarians and the local Muslim community. LAPD chief William Bratton defended it, saying “This is not…targeting or profiling. It is an effort to understand communities.” The ACLU and many others have expressed alarm at the revelations about a similar mapping Muslim communities program by the NYPD, which has since been suspended after public pressure and legal challenges.
These kinds of policies emerge from a climate that encourages discriminatory policing, arrests and surveillance of entire communities who are seen as potential “threats.” This climate is what is reinforced through the deep relationship between the Los Angeles Police Department and Israel, fostered by ties between law enforcement leaders and encouraged by police exchange programs like those facilitated by the American Jewish Committee, and the Anti-Defamation League.
St. Louis and Ferguson Police Departments and Israel
Years before the murder of Michael Brown, the Ferguson Police Department had a longstanding record of discrimination against Black people, as documented in a scathing 2015 Department of Justice (DoJ) report. After Brown’s death and an inspiring upswell of popular protest, Ferguson and St. Louis area police unleashed forms of militarized crowd control against protestors that reminded activists of military occupation in Israel/Palestine. Teargas, armored vehicles, and rubber bullets were used on activists, and the international attention drew advice from Palestinians to activists in Ferguson about how to deal with such attacks. This exchange of analysis, tactics and joint struggle between people’s movements, and by organizers of communities directly affected by state violence, was built upon decades of Black-Palestinian solidarity.
Brown’s killing fit into a longstanding pattern of lethal force used against Black people who were wrongfully profiled as posing a “threat,” not unlike the “shoot to kill” policy encouraged by some top Israeli military and political figures against Palestinians who allegedly pose a threat, even when they could be subdued by non-lethal means. The Ferguson Police’s profiling and dehumanization of residents parallels a similar outlook shared by the Israel National Police, Border Police and military. For example, in 2016, the Israeli Chief of Police commented publicly that it is “natural” for Israeli police to suspect Ethiopian-Jewish Israelis as well as Palestinians of crimes.
In the context of long-standing racist, militarized policing in both the St. Louis area and in Israel/Palestine, it is alarming that top police officials in the St. Louis area have participated in trainings in Israel on programs facilitated by the ADL & JINSA. Bringing officers together from two places each with their own distinctly disturbing patterns of violence can serve to exchange those worst practices from each context to the other. Indeed, when Black and Palestinian activists connected publicly with one another in the wake of Cast Lead and Michael Brown’s murder, the ADL tried to undermine this building of joint struggle, mainly because they portrayed Israel negatively. The ADL even went so far as to honor the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department in 2015 over the objections of local activists.
The following examples illustrate specific training relationships between St. Louis area police commanders and Israel. We are of course not claiming that this training directly caused the death of Michael Brown or other specific incidents of police brutality in the U.S., but rather that training with and valorizing Israeli military occupation forces and police forces that brazenly profile Palestinians can only serve to worsen the structural problems of racist militarized policing in both places. Furthermore, our focus is on the training of top-ranking U.S. officers who affect the conduct and training of the many officers they manage.
Timothy Fitch, St. Louis County Police Chief
Timothy Fitch was St. Louis County Police Chief from 2009 until his retirement in January 2014. Following the murder of Michael Brown by Ferguson Police in 2014, the Department of Justice supplemented its investigation of the Ferguson Police (within St. Louis County) with a wider investigation of the County police. The investigation focused mostly on the years of Fitch’s tenure and their immediate aftermath, and found patterns of excessive use of force, as well as of a policy of moving to “tactical” and militarized crowd control methods without exhausting other de-escalation options. Fitch went on an ADL National Counter-Terrorism Seminar (NCTS) in Israel in 2011. JVP’s annotated copy of an itinerary from an NCTS trip shows that delegates met with officials from bodies who help operate a military occupation and a brazen racial profiling operation inside Israel. These include the Israel National Police; the militarized police unit Yasam, which focuses on counter-terrorism as well as “riot control” and has a record of assaulting unarmed protesters; and the Israel Security Agency (ISA, known as Shin Bet or Shabak in Hebrew), which is infamous for torturing Palestinian detainees who are denied basic civil rights in the process. These agencies are experts in the excessive use of force and militarized crowd-control that Fitch’s department became infamous for using just after his tenure in 2014.
Joseph J. Mokwa, St. Louis Metropolitan Police Chief
St. Louis Metropolitan Police Chief Joseph J. Mokwa (now retired) traveled to Israel in 2008 on a Law Enforcement Executive Program (LEEP) facilitated by the hawkish Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA). According to JINSA, the program was “co-created with the Israel National Police, the Israel Ministry of Internal Security and the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet).” Under Mokwa’s tenure, the St. Louis Police department was widely criticized for letting police abuses go unchecked. In 2008, U.S. District Court Judge E. Richard Webber said the Board of Police Commissioners routinely turns “a blind eye” to complaints of police abuse and mistreatment, a critique repeated by federal judges years later. Mokwa was forced to resign the same year following a corruption scandal involving his daughter and officers using impounded cars for free.
Regional 2017 training
Even since widespread police abuses in Ferguson and St. Louis have been exposed, the ADL has continued training local police commanders in Israel. In 2017, six top St. Louis County police commanders, including the police chiefs from Clayton, MO and Florissant, MO and a local police major who also sits on an ADL advisory board, participated in a regional ADL Counter Terrorism seminar in Israel. They visited occupied East Jerusalem, the occupied West Bank, and met with the Israel National Police and the Israeli military among others. ADL regional director Karen Aroesty said about the trip that for local police commanders to learn about day-to-day Israeli policing “…and to understand how that can impact the work in their own departments, is one of the most profound experiences of a professional police career.”
The St. Louis area police departments have long records of brutality, abuse and corruption. However, the ADL has facilitated questionable trainings of St. Louis area cops in Israel that legitimize Israel’s abuses, they failed to adequately condemn St. Louis area policing abuses, and even honored the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department with an award in 2015, over the objection of JVP-St. Louis and other local activists. The award ceremony came after the Department of Justice’s scathing review of the Ferguson Police, after the murder of Michael Brown, and just days after St. Louis Police repeatedly shot and paralyzed 16-year old Brandon Claxton, who witnesses said was unarmed and posed no threat at the time. It should be clear that neither the records of the St. Louis area police departments nor of Israeli police and military forces are worthy of praise from a civil rights organization.