City Withdraws From Program Involving Salvadoran Police
PHOENIX, Ariz. (AP) _ The city on Thursday stopped its participation in a program giving Salvadoran police a first-hand look at U.S. law enforcement after human-rights activists said it would contribute to oppression in El Salvador.
The program, funded by the State Department and scheduled to run through Friday, had ″a positive goal, but it’s become confused,″ said city manager Peter Starrett. ″We decided the best thing would be to withdraw our participation immediately.″
Sixteen Salvadorans, including senior police officials, have been participating in the program, which also involved the state Department of Public Safety. They have been attending classes, riding in patrol cars and learning about patrols, community affairs, andcriminal and internal investigations.
Most of the activities, except for some of the patrol-car rides, had been completed before the city withdrew, Starrett said.
About 30 people demonstrated outside the Phoenix City Council chambers on Wednesday to protest the program.
″They are not welcome here,″ said spokeswoman Dawn Noggle. ″The military and civilian police (of El Salvador) have been linked to death-squad activity.″
Tristan Reader, a staff member of a Phoenix-area religious task force on Central America, said any law-enforcement techniques learned by the Salvadoran officers will help the military stifle opposition in that country.
″Any department involved in such training is at fault and is committing crimes against the people of El Salvador,″ Reader said.
City police Sgt. Brad Thiss said the program was intended to help El Salvador establish a civilian police force to eliminate military policing of the civilian population.
″They’re here to learn how they might better their police department,″ said Capt. Coy Johnston of the state Department of Public Safety. ″If they take that back to El Salvador, I don’t think that can hurt.″
The Salvadorans are not being taught specific investigative techniques or tactical operations, Thiss and Johnston said.
Gov. Bruce Babbitt said Thursday the state participated in the program because the United States has a stake in supporting the Salvadoran government ″and that support extends to training government personnel.″
If the Salvadorans involved were ″consistently identified as killers. ... that would be a different story,″ the Democratic governor said.
Several Phoenix City Council members, who learned of the program after Wednesday’s protest, said they were angry that the police department had not informed them of it.
The program is administered through Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. The 18 state and city police officers involved are on leave from their departments and working under contract with the university.