On September 18-20, 2019, the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation (AIPR) partnered with the National Center for Civil and Human Rights (National Center) and the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to hold the third edition of the National Seminar for Law Enforcement on Promoting and Protecting Civil and Human Rights. The event welcomed a new cohort of 23 police officers drawn from 12 different jurisdictions located across the United States for a two-day training seminar at the National Center in Atlanta, Georgia.
The National Seminar for Law Enforcement is built on the understanding that properly functioning police and domestic security forces are an essential component of a healthy democracy that is resilient to atrocities. The role of these actors in promoting and protecting the civil and human rights of the communities that they operate in is fundamental, especially in deeply divided societies. The seminar’s curriculum combines lessons learned from the field of mass atrocity prevention with AIPR’s experience with training security forces in other global regions and tailored knowledge from academics and other law enforcement experts to help build capacity among participants to detect risk factors for civil and human rights abuses, identify appropriate response tools to promote and protect those rights, and determine best practices for fostering resiliency in targeted communities.
In line with previous editions, the objectives of the seminar were to: (i) instill in participants the value of promoting and protecting civil and human rights and of examining the factors which put societies at risk for violating those rights; (ii) highlight the ways in which the promotion and protection of civil and human rights by law enforcement plays a specific and important role in the prevention of mass atrocities; and (iii) explore the application of lessons learned through the previous two objectives to the challenges faced by police today in serving multicultural communities in a deeply divided society.
The 2019 edition of the program opened with introductory remarks from representatives of AIPR, the National Center, and the FBI. Interactive modules on the first day covered the role of law enforcement in promoting and protecting civil and human rights in deeply divided societies, lessons learned from the American Civil Rights Movement, promoting and protecting the rights of post-atrocity refugee and immigrant communities, a case study on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and Operation Limelight USA, and implicit bias in policing. Additionally, participants were given a guided tour of the National Center’s exhibits on the American Civil Rights Movement and the Global Human Rights Movement by National Center staff.
The second day of the seminar built upon the concepts introduced during the previous day. Following a short introductory module, the event’s keynote address was delivered by Mr. Roberto Villaseñor, former Chief of the Tucson Police Department and member of President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. Following this, the seminar concluded with modules on how ordinary people can come to commit genocide and other mass atrocities as well as relevant federal-level color of law and hate crimes legislation.
Overall, the 2019 edition of the National Seminar for Law Enforcement on Promoting and Protecting Civil and Human Rights represents a continuation of the success realized through the previous two editions of the program. The Auschwitz Institute’s Director of Policy and Programming, Samantha Capicotto, explains:
The National Seminar for Law Enforcement provides officers drawn from localities across the United States with an opportunity to engage with one other, with civil society, and with members of academia on some of the most difficult problems that they face in carrying out their duties in contemporary multicultural communities.
In addition to the important exhibitions and productive learning environment offered by this seminar’s location at the National Center, the program provides a curriculum that is oriented toward helping the participating officials examine their role in atrocity prevention while offering new perspectives on key challenges and facilitating the development of a broad range of solutions that the officers can continue to refine and apply after they have returned to their home departments.