Group Calls on State to Stop Accrediting ‘Anti-Muslim’ Police Trainings

Texas

Southwest / Texas 86 Views

An ex-FBI agent who believes all Muslim groups "share the same ideology as ISIS" was approved by Texas to teach cops.

John Guandolo
John Guandolo Courtesy/Facebook

Civil rights groups are calling on Texas’ law enforcement accreditation agency to revoke approval it gave to a training by a notorious anti-Muslim activist in San Angelo earlier this month. The training, given on May 4 by ex-FBI agent John Guandolo and titled “Understanding the Jihadi Threat to America,” was reportedly approved by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE) as continuing education for officers — despite agencies in other states, including Kansas and Virginia, having severed ties with Guandolo over his views.

“Mr. Guandolo’s long and well-documented history of spreading anti-Muslim sentiment make him woefully unsuited to conduct any training that satisfies TCOLE’s accreditation standards,” wrote a coalition of advocacy groups, including Muslim Advocates and the Southern Poverty Law Center, in a letter sent Monday to TCOLE director Kim Vickers. The groups called on Vickers to rescind the training program’s accreditation.

Guandolo, who left the FBI in 2008 amid allegations of inappropriate sexual relationships and now runs an outfit called Understanding the Threat, has an anti-Muslim record that’s eminently Google-able. On at least three occasions, he’s taken photos in airports of brown-skinned TSA agents with beards and Tweeted that they’re “terrorists,” while tagging top federal officials. He’s also said that all Muslim groups “share the same ideology as ISIS”; that more than 80 percent of mosques are Muslim Brotherhood fronts; that Minnesota’s Twin Cities are “enemy-held territory” thanks to the number of Somali refugees; and that the headquarters of the Council on American-Islamic Relations should be bombed.

The May training in San Angelo marked at least the second time Guandolo has paid a visit to the city on the Concho River — thanks, it seems, to the Christian Reporter News, a visibly low-budget blog run by a woman named Kat Rowoldt, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has called “anti-Muslim.” According to the SPLC, Rowoldt invited Guandolo last October, and then again this May specifically so that officers in attendance could get TCOLE training hours.

The SPLC also says a second co-sponsor of Guandolo’s May training was the Concho Valley Council of Governments, a coalition of local governments represented by various elected officials. But the council’s chairman, Tom Green County Judge Steve Floyd, told the Observer that his group merely forwarded information about the training to local law enforcement, as it generally does with TCOLE-approved opportunities in the area. Floyd indicated that his group might not forward information about Guandolo’s trainings in the future, after having “audited” the most recent course. The Christian Reporter News, Guandolo and TCOLE did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Guandolo affair is just the latest example of institutionalized Islamophobia in Texas. This is the state where a sitting agriculture commissioner compared Syrian refugees to a pit of venomous snakes and joked about nuking “the Muslim world”; where Ted Cruz called for cops to “patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized”; where former state Representative Molly White demanded that activists “renounce Islamic terrorist groups and publicly announce allegiance to America and our laws” on Texas Muslim Capitol Day; and where, just last month, state Representative Jonathan Stickland told residents of the city of Euless to “beware” a “sneaky” Muslim candidate for City Council.

But even in light of that history, sanctioning Guandolo’s training of armed officers seems extreme. The man can barely keep himself this side of calling for mass deportation. “If you had a dinner guest who didn’t follow your rules … and threatened you while eating a dinner you prepared in your house, you would ask him to leave,” he wrote in a 2015 blog post. “The West may want to consider this option for a Muslim population which continues to threaten our lives in bolder and bolder fashion.”

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