Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Officers Train to Spot Domestic Terrorism; Seminar Arms Them with Data on Region's Extremist Groups

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Officers Train to Spot Domestic Terrorism; Seminar Arms Them with Data on Region's Extremist Groups

Article excerpt

Byline: TIA MITCHELL, The Times-Union

Northeast Florida might not seem like a hotbed of terrorist activity, but several local extremist groups do create a threat to security, law enforcement officers learned Tuesday.

Domestic terrorism and criminal extremist groups were the subject of a daylong seminar hosted by the Anti-Defamation League and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which was attended by representatives of more than 20 law enforcement agencies in the region. The goal of the training sessions was simple: giving officers as much information as possible to help them better identify the groups that threaten the area.

Around Jacksonville, groups aligned with the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazism are holding events and trying to increase their presence, said Joanna Liebross, director of investigative research for the southern region of the Anti-Defamation League. She said the area's pleasant weather and accessibility to main travel arteries has attracted several hate groups.

"They're separate and yet they unite," she said. "They support each other's events."

Holocaust deniers, the radical left-wing New Black Panther Party and the Council of Concerned Citizens, a group that embraces the ideals of the old Confederacy, also have a presence, she said.

Small police departments, such as Welaka and Chattahoochee, sent members to the seminar with the larger Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and St. Augustine Police Department. Several sheriff's offices sent representatives, as well as the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the U.S. Secret Service and other state and federal agencies.

"I hope to give them information so that they are armed in this fight, to connect them to our resources, our intelligence, our information," Liebross said.

Ken Tucker, director of the Jacksonville region of the FDLE, said he wanted citizens to know domestic terrorism is a serious issue that must be addressed by local law enforcement agencies.

"The whole premise is any crime that is hate-driven or driven by prejudice, we take it very seriously," Tucker said.

He said since the 9/11 attacks, most people worry only about international terrorism, but the threat can be just as pronounced from people who were born and raised in the United States. …

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