The head of the Arizona Police Department has responded to the Council for American-Islamic Relations' concerns about a planned "anti-jihadi" training scheduled for May.
And his reply is truly bizarre.
In an e-mail forwarded to Phoenix New Times by CAIR communications director Ibrahim Hooper, Levi Bolton, the executive director of the Arizona Police Association, writes:
"The APA respectfully declines to acquiesce to your proposition. However, we would like to explore your accusations during a full, complete sworn deposition here in Arizona. Please voluntarily report to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office at 301 West Jefferson on TBD where law enforcement will conduct a complete and thorough interview."
As Phoenix New Times reported earlier this week, the Arizona Police Association is planning on holding a three-day training event for officers next month on "Understanding and Investigating the Jihadi Network," led by none other than John Guandolo.
Guandolo has been labeled a "notorious Muslim basher and conspiracy theorist" by the Southern Poverty Law Center. His previous appearances in Arizona have met with criticism from groups including the Anti-Defamation League and the ACLU.
And some of his recent statements — such as claiming that American mosques are "organizing for armed confrontation with law enforcement" — have worried the Council for American-Islamic Relations so much that they sent a letter to the Arizona Police Association asking them to cancel the training.
CAIR feared the sessions could put the local Muslim community at risk. (You can see their full letter at the bottom of this story.)
"What right does this guy have to demand that I go and be interrogated?" Hooper asked, when reached by phone. "Does he have some position with the Maricopa County Attorney's Office?"
Nope. Bolton is a retired police officer who was hired by the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association as a lobbyist after he left the force. He later became the head of the Arizona Police Association, a self-described "association of associations" that lists numerous police unions from around the state as members.
He can often be found down at the state legislature, testifying in favor of legislation like the "Plan a Protest, Lose Your House" bill that was proposed earlier this year.
Amanda Jacinto, communications director for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, confirmed that Bolton is not employed by the MCAO.
"Honestly, I’m not going to comment," she responded when asked if Bolton had the authority to speak on behalf of the department. "We’re not involved in this exchange and I’m not going to jump in."
Hooper, of CAIR, said that Bolton's request that he submit to an interview with law enforcement is a transparent attempt at intimidation.
"I’ve noticed that since Trump's administration began, people’s responses have been like this," he said. "People feel that bigotry and misinformation is okay now. Actually, it's more than okay, it's encouraged."
Nonetheless, he said, Bolton's reply surprised him. CAIR frequently contacts law enforcement agencies and associations around the country that have invited Guandolo to speak.
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"Usually they either go two ways — they either ignore you completely, or they drop the guy," he said.
Being told that the group plans to hold the training despite CAIR's objections — then asked to to "voluntarily report" for a sworn deposition — is unusual. (Bolton has not responded to messages from New Times requesting comment on the planned training, or his response to CAIR.)
But Hooper is mostly concerned that, over the past few days, Guandolo's comments about Muslims have gotten increasingly ominous.
Wednesday, in an interview with the American Pastors Network, he claimed that "the mosque is the place from which they launch the jihad, against us. I don't know how to be more clear than that."
Then, on an episode of the Jim Bakker Show that aired today, Guandolo argued that "the jihadi movement is working directly in conjunction with the hard-left Marxist movement."
"Whether we're talking about any of the Soros-funded groups like Black Lives Matter, at the state level, at the national level, and the international level, they are working together," he went on to say.
"This kind of misinformation and bigotry endangers American Muslims," Hooper said. "This is what he’s going to teach law-enforcement officers.
"Can you imagine, if you're wearing a hijab or a kufi and you’re stopped at a traffic stop, how you’ll be treated by an officer who’s been through this training? You’ll be seen as the enemy, and your life will be in danger."
Here's the letter originally sent by CAIR to Bolton:
April 25, 2017
Dr. Levi Bolton – Executive Director
Arizona Police Association
1102 West Adams Street
Phoenix, Arizona 85007
VIA EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org; APAOffice@azplea.com
SUBJECT: Request to cancel scheduled APA training by notorious Islamophobe and anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist John Guandolo
Dear Dr. Bolton:
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, respectfully request the Arizona Police Association (APA) to cancel a scheduled training event to be offered next month by notorious Islamophobe and anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist John Guandolo, who falsely claims U.S. mosque planning armed attacks on law enforcement authorities and churches.
We believe Guandolo is putting local Muslim communities at risk by making the false claim recently that, “Mosques/Islamic Centers are organizing for armed confrontation with law enforcement, shoring up physical defenses where they see likely confrontation and increasing their pre-attack surveillances of churches and other targets. . .”
SEE: Guandolo’s Quote
He also recently bizarrely claimed that when a Delaware Imam (Islamic religious leader) touched his nose during the pledge of allegiance before a legislative session, that was part of “civilizational jihad” by American Muslims.
Guandolo: Delaware Imam Touching His Nose is Part of Civilizational Jihad
Guandolo’s hate group Understanding the Threat (UTT) is scheduled to hold a law enforcement training May 16-18 in Mesa, Ariz., at the invitation of the Arizona Police Association (APA). The training is reportedly “POST Certified,” meaning it fits curriculum standards set by the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board.
SCHEDULED: Understanding the Threat to again hold training in Mesa, Arizona
CAIR Islamophobia Monitor: John Guandolo
Video: Islamophobe John Guandolo Claims CIA Director John Brennan is a Secret Muslim
Given the most recent demonstrably false and off-the-wall claims by Mr. Guandolo, coupled with his long history of Islamophobic conspiracy theories, this training should be canceled and future trainings should feature instructors who will offer accurate and objective information. No law enforcement officer should receive continuing education credit for such biased, counterproductive and inaccurate “training.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), an organization that tracks hate groups in America, describes Guandolo as "a disreputable character, who regularly attacks the U.S. government, claims that the director of the Central Intelligence Agency is a secret Muslim agent for the Saudi government and says that American Muslims 'do not have a First Amendment right to do anything.'"
According to the SPLC, “Guandolo works closely with ACT! for America, the largest grassroots anti-Muslim group in the country.” ACT for America’s anti-Muslim bigotry was highlighted recently in a Washington Post exposé.
SEE: This group believes Islam threatens America: ‘It’s a spiritual battle of good and evil.’
Last year, a Texas college canceled a similar event. The college’s decision came following a request by CAIR’s Dallas-Fort Worth chapter.
SEE: Texas College Cancels Controversial Law Enforcement Training Event Led by 'Anti-Muslim Conspiracy Theorist'
Ex-FBI Agent John Guandolo to Host Anti-Muslim Training at Texas College
CAIR-Dallas Asks College to Cancel Law Enforcement ‘Training’ by Islamophobe John Guandolo
Backgrounder on Islamophobe John Guandolo:
In 2015, CAIR welcomed the withdrawal of an FBI representative from an event in Texas that was initially sponsored by the anti-Muslim hate group ACT! for America and featured Guandolo.
SEE: FBI Withdraws from Texas Event Initially Sponsored by Hate Group and Featuring Anti-Muslim Conspiracy Theorist
Virginia’s Rappahannock Regional Criminal Justice Academy rescinded its approval of in-service training credits for state law enforcement scheduled to attend a training Guandolo was conducting in Culpeper, Va., after being made aware of his anti-Islam rhetoric.
SEE: Virginia Agency Pulls Accreditation for Anti-Muslim Training
A sheriff in Kansas decided not to partner with a citizens group sponsoring a Guandolo training after being informed of his conspiracy theories. When a journalist at Kansas’ Wichita Eagle covered the controversy, Guandolo accused the reporter of material support of terrorism.
SEE: Kansas Sheriff Won't Partner on Training by John Guandolo
A number of Arizona police departments decided not to send officers to one of Guandolo’s trainings.
CAIR: Arizona Police Departments Drop Out of Islamophobic Training
Guandolo left the FBI shortly after reports surfaced that he had allegedly engaged in a sexual relationship with a key witness in a corruption trial targeting a member of Congress. In addition he is documented as having falsified his credentials and work experience.
Major General Tony Cucolo, Commandant of the US Army War College, informed CAIR in an email: “Mr. Guandolo's claim (in print) that he teaches at the Army War College and any other references (e.g., online) identifying him as an adjunct instructor here are simply untrue.”
Again, CAIR respectfully requests that APA cancel Guandolo’s training in May.
Thank you in advance for your consideration of this important matter.