One of the organizations that organize and sponsor these trainings is the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA). JINSA is a think tank that advocates for US-Israeli security cooperation, increased domestic military spending, and military aid to Israel, and has board members with close ties to US defense contractors. JINSA launched its Law Enforcement Exchange Program (LEEP) shortly after 9/11, and since 2002 has run annual trips to Israel for US federal, state, and local law enforcement. Over 11,000 additional American law enforcement officials have attended LEEP conferences nationwide, which bring in Israeli security officials as experts.
Another organization that organizes and sponsors these trainings is the American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF). The AIEF is a 501(c)(3) organization affiliated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). AIPAC is a lobbying group that advocates pro-Israel policies to the Congress and Executive Branch of the United States. AIEF is AIPAC’s charitable arm and makes grants to AIPAC as well as funds trips to Israel for politically influential Americans, including U.S. Congress members, for meetings with the Israeli political and military elite. In 2017 alone, AIEF sponsored 147 congressional trips to Israel and spent $2.16 million, more than any other interest group sponsoring congressional travel.
The Sheriff’s Office of Hennepin County, Minnesota, is among the departments that have sent delegates to Israel. The department sent Patrick McGowan and Rich Stanek to Israel for training. Patrick McGowan served as Sheriff of Hennepin County between 1994 and 2006, and attended a training in Israel with JINSA as a delegate of the LEEP program. McGowan was replaced by Rich Stanek who has been serving as the Sheriff of Hennepin County since 2006. Sheriff Stanek first attended a training in Israel through AIPAC as a delegate of AIEF, and later attended another training in Israel with JINSA as a delegate of the LEEP program in June 2011.
Sheriff McGowan established the department’s homeland security unit, and hosted a training featuring Israeli “counter-terrorism” experts in 2004. He gave testimony to multiple subcommittees in Congress as the Chairman of the National Sheriffs’ Association’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Committee on antiterrorism training for first responders.
Sheriff Stanek was previously the Minnesota Public Safety Commissioner, having resigned in 2004 when he was up for confirmation because of racial slurs he admitted to using as an MPD officer in 1989. According to Minneapolis Public Radio, he has a history of racist behavior and employing excessive force.
As Sheriff of Hennepin County, he sent officers to North Dakota to suppress the NoDAPL protests in 2016. His officers also used batons and pepper spray on protesters, leading to protests against him in his own community. After public outcry and years of prodding from officials ranging from city council members to Congressman Keith Ellison on Hennepin County’s relationship with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Sheriff Stanek finally laid out in writing what happens to undocumented immigrants in his jail. In a letter from September 21, the sheriff described that at the point of booking inmates were asked their place of birth and fingerprinted. The prints were then sent to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and foreign-born immigrants in his jail were put on the phone or ushered into a room with ICE agents. Deputies did not always notify them that they are not required to talk with ICE, and some were deported without conviction and without a fair trial.