After receiving complaints from advocacy groups about officers getting education credit for taking a class taught by an anti-Islamic speaker, the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement reversed an earlier statement and said it will not grant hours to those who attended the session.
The commission’s director sent a letter Wednesday to the Concho Valley Regional Law Enforcement Academy, stating it was rejecting credit hours for a day-long session held by ex-FBI agent John Guandolo in San Angelo earlier this month called “Understanding the Jihadi Threat to America.” Law enforcement officers in Texas must undergo 40 hours of continuing education training every two years.
“Upon review of the recording of the seminar, the Commission shares some of the concerns that we have received from members of the public that the material paints an entire religion with an overly broad brush,” wrote TCOLE Executive Director Kim Vickers.
The commission said last week that a staff member sent to observe the class saw “no concerning material that would cause reason to deny continuing education hours for law enforcement attendees.”
On Monday, advocacy groups — including Muslim Advocates and the Southern Poverty Law Center — asked the commission to rescind any credit given to the more than 30 officers reported to have taken Guandolo’s class. The groups said that the training was based on a conspiracy theory that claimed Muslim groups wanted to overthrow the U.S. government and implement Islamic law. They argued that the class promoted racial and ethnic profiling and alerted the commission to Guandolo’s previous controversies, including multiple tweets calling bearded, dark-skinned airport security officers “terrorists” and “jihadis.”
The state commission has tried to distance itself from the training. In a statement Wednesday, Vickers reiterated that the commission delegates authority and approval of continuing education classes to nearly 200 providers throughout the state.
But because of the controversy raised by Muslim advocacy groups, Vickers said the commission took “the extraordinary step” of sending a staff member to the seminar to ensure that the training was valuable. Contrary to the original statement that the staff member found no cause for concern, Vickers said Wednesday that, upon reviewing a recording of the presentation, the commission decided to reject training credits for the class.
“I and my executive staff agree that not only was the material presented concerning in its overly broad characterization of an entire subset of the population, but it provided no training value for law enforcement attendees,” he said.
Guandolo did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday evening, but he told The Texas Tribune on Sunday that his trainings are based on irrefutable facts. He claimed that Muslim organizations who have attacked his credibility have been identified as terrorists with the same objective as Al Qaeda and ISIS.
"Suit-wearing jihadis come after us all the time,” Guandolo said in a promotional video on his company’s website.
Juvaria Khan, a staff attorney for Muslim Advocates, said her group applauds the agency's decision, though she still questioned the accreditation for Guandolo's previous trainings in Texas (he taught a class in San Angelo in October, as well).
"These events have no training value and, in fact, undermine the ability of law enforcement officers to do their jobs effectively," she said in a statement. "TCOLE’s actions today send an important message to other law enforcement agencies that Guandolo’s seminars are dangerous and should be rejected."