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Criminal Justice

LA City Council Authorizes LAPD To Accept $250,000 To Counter Extremism Despite Racial Profiling Concerns

An LAPD squad car is parked near L.A. City Hall at night. The front passenger door has the department's logo and the words "to protect and serve."
The LAPD will use the federal grant to identify people who be might be at risk of becoming violent.
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The Los Angeles City Council has authorized the Los Angeles Police Department to accept a $250,000 federal grant for training to prevent violent extremism.

The Department of Homeland Security's Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention Program intends to help police, mental health workers and others identify people who be might be at risk of becoming violent and link them to the "appropriate services" to prevent violence from happening.

But several community members are voicing concern about the program, including city councilmembers such as Mike Bonin. He argues that vulnerable people seeking help from teachers, social workers and faith leaders could be subjected to more scrutiny from law enforcement.

"It has been a program that has historically targeted and discriminated against people from the Muslim community," Bonin said. "And what the federal government has done over the past couple of years is they have tried to rebrand this, but they haven't really changed it all that much."

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Councilmember Nithya Raman, along with Bonin, voted against the authorization. She said "we are living in frightening times," pointing to the Texas Synagogue attack and the murder of six Asian women in Atlanta nearly a year ago.

"There is a lot out there that I worry about when I think about extremist violence, but I've heard too many legitimate concerns about this program for us to be able to support the receipt of this grant money today," Raman said.

Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson said he was initially concerned about the program, but ended up supporting it with. He says his office went through the plan "line by line" and was assured "that it was not looking at people's religious background."

Last year in testimony to U.S. Senators, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas said the biggest threat in the U.S. was from white supremacists.

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The Southern Poverty Law Center, an advocacy group that tracks hate groups, identified 733 hate groups across the country. In 2020, the number was 838 and 940 in 2019. California is home to the most hate groups in the country, with 65.

Still, the law center told the Associated Press that extremist views operate more openly in the political mainstream despite the decline in power.

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