CAIRO - Terminating years-long suspicious techniques in dealing with the Muslim minority, Los Angeles police are engaging with mosques to track down potential terror activities.
The community engagement model can work; it's more effective, Salam Al-Marayati, who worked with the ACLU, the South Asian Network and the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund on the program changes, told The Washington Post.
The mosques have rejected the al-Qaeda ideology of death that's why it's even more important for law enforcement to partner with the mosques.
Since 2008, Los Angeles Police Department has used the federal Suspicious Activities Reporting (SAR) program to file reports on potential terrorist-related actions.
These reports included minor actions even if someone photographed certain buildings.
Muslim and Sikh leaders have repeatedly called on the LAPD's Counter-Terrorism and Criminal Intelligence Bureau to ensure that future suspicious activity reports are prompted by actual behavior with apparently genuine criminal or terrorist elements.
Under the new guidelines, information gathered on what is later determined to be innocent behavior will be erased from counterterrorism databases.
SAR is a reality, said Al-Marayati.
We're removing noncriminal behavior from SAR reporting, and data on innocuous behavior is being purged.
The new LAPD approach followed the eruption of several scandals over the past year in which New York police involved in spying on Muslim communities in the US.
Last year, the Associated Press revealed that the NYPD sent out undercover officers into ethnic communities to track their daily life and monitor mosques as well as Muslim student organizations.
It also revealed that the NYPD intelligence had established so-called Demographics Unit using plainclothes police officers to monitor ethnic groups in the metropolitan region.
The AP also found that the NYPD kept secret files on businesses owned by second- and third-generation Americans specifically because they were Muslims.
Applying the new strategy, LAPD officials praised the changes which followed productive dialogue with Muslim and Sikh minority groups.
The changes are an example of our ability to reach out to the people we work with, Cmdr. Blake Chow of the LAPD's counterterrorism bureau said.
There's a little bit of (information) regrouping.
We're still going to be collecting suspicious activity reports. The program is still as robust as it is now.
There are 500,000 Muslims in Los Angeles, the second largest Muslim concentration in the US after New York City.
American Muslims are estimated between six to seven million, less than three percent of the country's 300 million population.
Since 9/11, US Muslims have become sensitized to an erosion of their civil rights, with a prevailing belief that America was stigmatizing their faith.
A US survey has revealed that the majority of Americans know very little about Muslims and their faith.A recent Gallup poll, however, found 43 percent of Americans nationwide admitted to feeling at least a little prejudice against Muslims.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net