What are police exchange programs?

Local police forces across the country, ICE, and Border Patrol often participate in “exchange” or “training” trips which involve trips to Israel for police department leaders and officers in which they train alongside the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and Israel Police.

These programs have become more common as “counter-terrorism” has emerged as a priority for US police departments and as they become increasingly militarized. These programs exchange “worst practices,” including extrajudicial executions, shoot-to-kill policies, racial profiling, mass spying and surveillance, deportation and detention, and violent suppression of political dissent.

What are examples of exchange programs between US and Israeli police departments?

  • The Anti-Defamation League (ADL)’s “National Counter-Terrorism Seminar in Israel” has trained representatives from more than 100 different American police departments since 2003, including Durham.
  • The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA)’s “Law Enforcement Exchange Program” hosted more than 90 high-ranking police officials between 2004 and 2009.
  • Georgia State University’s “Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange” (GILEE) has brought more than 1,400 police officers to Israel since 1992.

Why does it matter if US police departments participate in exchange programs with Israel?

The IDF and Israel Police are occupying forces and violators of human rights. Israeli security forces are guilty of countless instances of use of excessive force on Palestinians, especially children, in Occupied Palestine, according to Human Rights Watch.

Israeli police operate under a de-facto shoot-to-kill policy as a first line of defense when dealing with Palestinian "terror suspects", mirroring practices of American police departments which treat people of color as deadly threats by default. ”Counter-terrorism” strategies of Israeli security forces amount to Islamophobia and racial profiling, arbitrary detentions, and disproportionate responses to non-violent or non-threatening protests.

Why did Demilitarize! Durham2Palestine focus on the Durham Police Department?

As members of Durham’s community, we are committed to peace and justice. We were concerned about the possibility of Durham's police receiving training from Israeli security forces who persistently use tactics of extrajudicial killing, excessive force, racial profiling, and the violent repression of social justice movements.

Durham’s former police chief, Jose Lopez, participated in an ADL leadership training program with the IDF in 2008. Durham’s current police chief, CJ Davis, established the Atlanta Police Leadership Institute (APLI) International Exchange program in her former role as Atlanta Police Division Commander. As part of the program, she managed all aspects of Israeli exchange and curriculum for the annual Atlanta Police training in Israel.

Is there local precedent for municipalities participating in boycotts for justice?

  • In 1986, the City of Durham opposed apartheid in South Africa with a boycott resolution.
  • In 2010, the City of Durham joined many other municipalities in passing a travel ban against Arizona because of its racist “show me your papers” law, HB1070.

Are there similar campaigns to end police exchanges with Israel happening elsewhere in the US?

Yes! Click the links below to learn more about similar campaigns in the US.

Wondering if your city engages in police exchanges with Israel? Check out the Palestine Is Here database to track Israeli military ties to your city!

Still have questions? Email us at durham2palestine@gmail.com