in death The shooting of 29-year-old Tyree Nichols by Memphis police officers last month has again sparked outrage over the violent, militarized nature of U.S. law enforcement and probes over police departments’ bloated budgets.
Objections to revitalized policing include criticism of a controversial series of training and exchange programs for US police in Israel. Many American law enforcement leaders attended the program, where they learned from Israeli police and security forces known for systematically violating Palestinian human rights.
Some of the top brass from the Memphis Police Department, including current Chief Cerelyn Davis, participated in the program. Davis, who previously led the police department in Durham, North Carolina, completed leadership training with the Israel National Police in 2013. While an officer in the Atlanta Police Department, Davis also established an international exchange program with representatives of Israeli police and integrated department leaders. to Israel, according to an old biography.
“We know, without a shadow of a doubt, that what happens during US-Israeli police exchanges does nothing to keep our communities safe,” said Eran Efrati, director of campaigns and partnerships for the progressive group Jewish Voice for Peace. “But the exchanges refine and enhance the militarization inherent in American policing with the Israeli tactics and technologies of occupation and apartheid that are being tested on Palestinians every day.”
When he became principal at Durham, Davis seems to have changed his tune on such programs. Pressure from local activists and a national campaign to end US-Israeli police exchanges have led to an apparent cooling of police-Israeli relations.
In 2018, Durham became the first city in the United States to ban police training and exchanges involving the Israeli military. At the time, Davis wrote in a memo that he had “no intention of participating or initiating exchanges with Israel,” prompting two Israeli volunteer police officers to sue him and the Durham Police Department for discrimination.
A spokesman for the Memphis Police Department did not immediately respond to a request to explain the chief’s changed position on the exchange with Israel.
Davis isn’t the only top cop in Memphis who took part in the exchange with Israel. One of his predecessors, Larry Godwin, also trained there as part of a Homeland Security International Conference.
Godwin, who is known for introducing Blue Crush predictive policing technology to the city, said he wants to adopt some of the techniques he learned in Israel in Memphis. As The Intercept previously reported, the Memphis Police Department has a long history of surveillance, particularly of black employees.
“We’re going to try to incorporate some things here,” Godwin told reporters at the time. “We’re doing a lot of that, but there are more things we can do on the technology side. I have picked up some very good information. “
“The kind of training that the police are given in Israel is actually part of the problem because it encourages a warrior mentality in the police.”
Critics of the exchange with Israeli security forces point out that the partnership allows for the exchange of “worst practices”.
“During this training in Israel, US and Israeli officials visit checkpoints, prisons, airports – well-documented sites of human rights abuses against Palestinians,” said Efrati, of Jewish Voice for Peace. “Participants witnessed real-life examples of repressive violence, watched Israeli military crackdowns on protests in the occupied West Bank, and joined Israeli police patrols in East Jerusalem and along the military encirclement of Gaza.”
The training — whether in Israel or at home — has done little to address the underlying problems of U.S. policing or prevent violent police killings like Nichols’.
“Most people who call for more training in response to abusive policing have little idea what it actually entails,” Alex Vitale, sociology professor and author of “The End of Policing,” told The Intercept. “The kind of training police are given in Israel is actually part of the problem because it encourages a warrior mentality in the police and exposes them to practices that would be unconstitutional in the United States.”