John Guandolo and his anti-Muslim consulting firm Understanding the Threat are scheduled to travel to Mesa, Arizona to hold a law enforcement training at the invitation of the Arizona Police Association. The event, scheduled for May 16-18, will take place at the Mesa Police Department.
Guandolo is known for promoting anti-Muslim rhetoric and conspiracy theories that range from extremely bigoted to downright bizarre. During a 2011 training, Guandolo claimed Muslims in America “do not have a First Amendment right to do anything.” He has also advocated that Black Lives Matter activists are working “in conjunction” with “jihadis” and “Marxist” groups in order to “impose Sharia Islamic law” on America.
The controversial training has received criticism from prominent civil rights organizations, including the Center for New Community, who continue to question Guandolo’s fitness to be in any sort of position of authority. Despite the pushback, Interim Mesa Police Chief Michael Dvorak, who is opening his department facilities to Guandolo, has chosen not to cancel the event. Yet under pressure from advocacy groups and local media, Dvorak was pressed to issue a public statement about the training.
He stated that while the event will take place at his department’s facility, the Mesa Police Department will not be “participating as host, sponsor or monetary contributor.”
“I have directed our staff to explore other training opportunities in similar genres so our peace officers can have a comprehensive view of these topics,” he added.
Guandolo originally boasted that, according to him, the 100 officers registered for the event training would be eligible for continuing education credits. However Jack Lane, executive director of AZPOST, the agency that oversees the state’s law enforcement training standards, said the Mesa event would not be accredited.
In an email to the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), Dvorak revealed the training is being made possible by a grant provided by Maricopa County Attorney’s office. A local ABC News affiliate reported the grant being for $28,000. Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery has proven to be a staunch supporter of Guandolo. In 2014, Montgomery hosted Guandolo and his outfit to the tune of about $40,000 of public money. In response to criticism from civil rights advocates, several Arizona law enforcement departments originally invited opted out.
It would seem Montgomery did not want the training traced back to his office. When the Phoenix New Times reached out to the Maricopa County Attorney’s office for comment, a spokesperson for Montgomery responded: “Nobody in this office is aware of any bookings with anything to do with that.”
Montgomery instead seemingly funneled funding to the Arizona Police Association (APA) to host the event. This, in fact, will be the second time this year the APA has hosted Guandolo, as highlighted at the Center for New Community’s resource, Islamophobia Academy: How Anti-Muslim Operatives are Indoctrinating Local Police. In January, the APA, along with the Arizona Tactical Officers Association, co-hosted Guandolo in Glendale, Arizona.
Dr. Levi Bolton serves as executive director of the Arizona Police Association. Bolton and his organization also have ties to a local Arizona border patrol union that has previously hosted former Sheriff Joe Arpaio. After CAIR reached out to Bolton about cancelling the Mesa event, he responded by asking they “voluntarily report” to the Maricopa County Attorney’s office for a for a “sworn deposition,” something the group says was a tactic to intimidate them.
In a letter to CAIR, Dvorak assured the group that although this training will continue as scheduled, it will be the last time it will be held at his department’s facility. While this is step in the right direction, you can tell the Mesa Police Department to not give anti-Muslim bigotry a platform on Tuesday by signing and sharing this petition from MPOWER Change.