Excerpted From: Cruz Rodriguez, The Legal and Constitutional Consequences of U.S. Police Departments Collaborating with Israeli Security Forces, 26 Public Interest Law Reporter 8 (Fall, 2020) (328 Footnotes) (Full Document)

CruzRodriguez.jpegThe murder of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, by the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) shocked the world, setting off protests across the United States and globally. The viral video of his murder showed how Derek Chauvin, the MPD officer conducting an arrest, nonchalantly pressed his knee onto Mr. Floyd's neck for over eight straight minutes. An independent medical examiner found that the cause of Mr. Floyd's death was from “asphyxiation from sustained pressure” from the MPD officer's knee-to-neck maneuver. As many Black Americans painfully know, this murder was a result of the anti-Black racism that is engrained into the American conscious and policing system. Throughout American history and up to this day, anti-Black racism has prevented non-Black people from recognizing the value of Black lives and their humanity.

This police practice of putting a knee to a suspect's neck is not new to many U.S. police departments. The knee-to-neck maneuver is banned in many metropolitan police departments, however, MPD permits its use on suspects who are deemed aggressive or to be resisting arrest. The U.S. police departments that have banned this training have done so because of the high risk of serious or deadly injury that exists for a suspect. Despite this ban, Montgomery County Police Captain Sonia Pruitt has still questioned U.S. police departments on the use or training of this maneuver because she has seen it repeatedly used on Black suspects. Where are police officers getting this deadly training from and why is it being used as an arresting technique?

After the murder of Mr. Floyd, many Palestinian solidarity activists began to bring to light the connections between the MPD, including other U.S. police departments, and the Israeli security forces. In 2012, over 100 Minnesota police officers attended a security exchange conference at the Israeli Consulate in Chicago and received counterterrorism training from Israeli law enforcement and military officials. These activists have claimed that the knee-to-neck restraint that was used on Mr. Floyd was learned from the Israeli security forces at this security exchange conference. To Palestinians, this knee-to-neck arresting technique is not new or uncommon from the Israeli security forces. It has been seen used multiple times on Palestinians residing within Israel and the military occupied Palestinian territories. Such as in the arrest of Khairi Hanoon, a 61 year-old Palestinian activist, who had a knee placed on his neck for fifty seconds by an IDF solider during a peaceful protest. Neta Golan, an Israeli anti-occupation activist living in the West Bank said:

“When I saw the picture of killer cop Derek Chauvin murdering George Floyd by leaning in on his neck with his knee as he cried for help and other cops watched, I remembered noticing when many Israeli soldiers began using this technique of leaning in on our chest and necks when we were protesting in the West Bank sometime in 2006.”

Despite what seems to be a glaring connection, it has been difficult to find a direct link that demonstrates that the knee-to-neck technique used on Mr. Floyd was learned and implemented into officer trainings by the Minnesota police officers after the 2012 security exchange conference. Additionally, archived copies of the MPD's “Use of Force Policy” has shown that neck restraints and choke holds in training for MPD officers have been included since early as October 16, 2002. However, a missing link between the two does not necessarily mean that there is no connection at all. Activists have made an accurate assumption that is based on the fact that U.S. police departments have indeed been participating in both trainings and exchange programs with Israeli security forces after the events of 9/11. Over 1,000 senior U.S. law enforcement officials have been to the state of Israel for counterterrorism training, roughly representing the leadership of the 18,000 U.S. police departments. Additionally, thousands more have participated in conferences and trainings held in United States by Israeli security officials. What are the consequences of having U.S. police officers participating in trainings and exchange programs from a security force that has a record of human rights violations, maintains a brutal military occupation over a population, and enforces apartheid?

This article will examine the American legal and constitutional consequences of having U.S. police departments training with and exchanging information, resources, and weapons with a state that has a record of human rights violations. It is important to note that this article does not argue that police brutality, racist policing tactics, and suppression of social justice movements in the U.S. began after collaborations with the Israeli security forces. The U.S. has a long racist history of anti-Blackness, police brutality, and injustice for Black and brown communities, and so does Israel.

After the events of 9/11, the War on Terror has broadened the implementation of military-style policing, increased surveillance, and technology in the name of U.S. national security. U.S. police departments have looked to the nation's ally, Israel, to learn from because of its system of national security, which disregards the civil and human rights of Palestinians and Jewish ethnic minorities. Further, both the U.S. and Israel have declared a common enemy and national security threat: the Arab and Muslim community.

The argument of this article is that U.S. departments training and collaborating with Israel's military and police forces results in illegal and unconstitutional policing practices and tactics in America and Israel. Israeli security trainings provide training for U.S. police departments to make their current tactics more sophisticated and provide inspiration for new ones, which exacerbates the issues of surveillance, racial profiling, and police brutality in the U.S. As has been true throughout American history, Black and brown communities, social justice movements, and activists experience the most severe legal and constitutional consequences.

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While there is no direct connection between the knee-to-neck restraining technique used on George Floyd by MPD to the Israeli trainings MPD participated in, that doesn't mean U.S. police practices and tactics are not being influenced by Israeli security forces in dangerous ways. Further trainings and collaborations with Israeli security forces will result in more violent police interactions and killings of residents, such as the killing of Mr. Floyd. There are serious legal and constitutional consequences for U.S. police departments when they implement Israeli practices and tactics to policing in the U.S. Therefore, trainings and collaborations with Israeli security forces must be ended.

U.S. police officers should not be training with an apartheid security force that constantly violates international law and human and civil rights. Israel is an apartheid regime that subjugates Palestinians to racial and racialized religious discrimination, deprivation of human and civil rights, and expulsion from their lands. Israel subjects Palestinians to a different legal system than what is given to Israeli Jews because of racial and religious differentiation. While Israeli Jews of color have citizenship privileges over Palestinians, they are also subject to systematic racism, police violence, and civil rights violations because of the Israeli system that is based in racism and apartheid. Israel has effectively declared the entire Palestinian population as a national security threat. This informs their policing practices and tactics, which are brutally enforced on Palestinians.

U.S. police departments training and collaborating with Israel will result in legal and constitutional consequences for Black and brown communities, activists of social justice movements, and other vulnerable communities in the U.S. Israeli security forces do not have constitutional constraints and they disobey international law when they police the Palestinian people. The majority of their practices and tactics are rooted in disenfranchising Palestinians, repressing their political resistance, and expulsing them from the land. As a result, these Israeli trainings only serve as inspiration for new ideas, legitimization of racist narratives, and the normalization of unconstitutional policing in America. U.S. police departments learn how to effectively surveil communities and social justice movements, which chills and limits freedom of expression and speech. They learn how to reframe their approach to crime, reinforcing the national security narrative, which results in targeted policing, racial profiling, and serious community consequences. Additionally, they legitimize existing practices of excessive use of force, while introducing dangerous new crowd-control tactics in response to protestors and demonstrations. In order to begin the demilitarization of police, reduce police brutality and the use of racist policing tactics, and to limit illegal and unconstitutional policing, U.S. police departments should be prohibited from training and collaborating with Israeli security forces.