The Proliferation of License Plate Readers

A little noticed surveillance technology, designed to track the movements of every passing driver, is quickly proliferating on Maryland’s streets. License plate readers (LPRs), mounted on police cars or at fixed locations like on road signs and bridges, use small cameras to photograph thousands of plates per minute.

They might be called license plate readers, but this technology can also capture images of the car’s passengers along with other data like the date, time, and location of the picture taken.  This information is than often pooled into regional sharing systems. As a result, enormous databases of innocent motorists’ information are growing rapidly and is often retained for years, with few or no restrictions to protect privacy rights.

License plate readers are mounted on police cars across Montgomery County

Knowing where someone drives is one thing, but this technology could also allow someone to pin-point where an individual works, shops, worships or goes to have fun — all information that someone, even a law-abiding citizen, may not want law enforcement to have in their records.

Under Maryland law, the use of data collected by license plate readers is limited to “legitimate law enforcement purposes,” and requires law enforcement agencies to create basic minimum procedures governing access to LPR data. But the law exempts LPR data from public records act requests—including a requestor’s own data, and there are no limits on how long the data can be stored.

So how many images are being collected?  In nearby Washington, DC, a Freedom of Information request found that over 200 million scan were made by DC police in 2012.

In Virginia, the state’s Supreme Court has agreed to hear a challenge over how long police can keep data from automated license plate readers.  Privacy advocates warn that keeping the data beyond a short period of time amounts to “mass surveillance” and creates the possibility for abuse by police or others who can access the data, by creating a trail of personal movement.

The court’s ruling in this case could have a big impact across the country.  Only 14 states have laws addressing the use of license plate readers at all, and just eight of those address how long the police can maintain the data.

“As modern technology evolves and law enforcement uses it more and more, there’s got to be checks and balances and real regard for the privacy rights of innocent citizens,” said ACLU lawyer Hope Amezquita.

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Activists weigh in on Takoma Park police chief selection process — join us online and next Thursday!

Elizabeth Wallace testifies about Takoma Park police chief selection process

MCCRC, ACLU-Montgomery County, and other activists joined the discussion of the Takoma Park Police Chief selection process during a Takoma Park City Council meeting (video forthcoming) held Wednesday evening in the Recreation Center on New Hampshire Avenue.

Why is this important? As Thomas Nephew told Mitti Hicks of MyMCMedia,

“The people that lead the police department are the ones who have the biggest effect on the policies and culture of that police department. The new leader will determine the attitudes towards the use of force, programs like countering violent extremism […] and so I think it’s important to be a part of the process from the very beginning.”

The process began when former police chief Alan Goldman resigned in March.  (In the interim, the role is being filled by a rotating group of TPPD captains.)  After an initial work session on April 19th (video), the pace has stepped up with discussions on Monday, June 19th (video), Wednesday’s meeting, and a meeting next week (Thursday, June 29th, 7pm) in the Azalea Room of the Takoma Park Community Center that will be entirely dedicated to the topic.

Councilmember Peter Kovar has discussed some of the basics about the selection process and some of the ideas the council is considering on his blog:

Under Takoma Park’s City Charter, the Council doesn’t have direct involvement in the selection of the Police Chief. That’s a decision, like all other City personnel matters, that lies with the City Manager. The Council does have a role in establishing overall policies for the Department, including designating areas like community policing that we may want a new Chief to place more emphasis on. Whether the Council should have a more direct role in reviewing applicants, approving the City Manager’s choice, etc., is something we’re debating now. Beyond that, it may make sense to have a Police Commission, composed of residents and community members, that would help set and monitor Police Department policies.

In her remarks to the council on Wednesday evening, Elizabeth Wallace recalled comments by the reform-oriented Tucson PD chief Chris Magnus to the council on Monday.  Chief Magnus opened those remarks by saying that the job can be a great opportunity to “show what you can do as a team in a city”:

[That team] not only has to bring out the best in the police department — in other words it’s not just about the chief or the command staff [–] your best team members are often those folks who are line level patrol cops responding to calls [–]  but it also has to involve really working effectively with other city departments. It’s amazing how cities of any size can be “super-siloed” when it comes right down to it, and that’s a factor. And then perhaps most importantly [working] with the community overall. And that’s something that historically we don’t do so well in policing — we tend to like to tell the community how they *should* be policed as opposed to listening to the community tell us what they see as their priority.

He also warned, as Ms. Wallace emphasized,  that “Any police department that is content to rest on its laurels … any time you take that approach, you’re already behind.”

Lorig Charkoudian (who has declared herself a 2018 candidate for one of the three District 20 delegate seats) commended the council for an open, deliberate and deliberative process that resembles the kind of “community led policing” she advocates.  (Here’s one description of a “civilian led model,” authored by ex-Baltimore police officer Michael Wood.)

In his remarks to the council, MCCRC’s Thomas Nephew said that Continue reading

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Asian American Groups Support Rockville’s “Fostering Community Trust” Ordinance—Council Meeting June 19

welcometorockvilleA coalition of organizations, including several Asian and Pacific American groups as well as the Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition, will attend the Rockville City Council hearing on Monday, June 19 in support of the “Fostering Community Trust” ordinance introduced by Councilmember Julie Palakovich Carr earlier this year. This ordinance would restrict all City of Rockville employees—including police officers—from requesting citizenship or immigration status of any person unless required by law, and would additionally prevent detention of individuals based on immigration detainers in most cases.

In a statement released this weekend, our coalition makes the case that ordinances such as these are vital to the safety of our communities, noting “It is impossible to build a strong community in an environment of fear and distrust. Police departments across the country have indicated that increased fear due to increased immigration enforcement actions and anti-immigrant rhetoric have led to decreases in crime reporting, including sexual assault, in immigrant communities. This ordinance is an important first step in keeping all members of our community, including undocumented immigrants, safe.”

The statement can be read in full below. Please join us tomorrow, Monday, June 19, at the Rockville Mayor and Council meeting as the proposed ordinance is taken up for consideration by the mayor and city council. More information can be found on the Facebook event page. Be sure to RSVP if you’ll be joining us!

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Youth-police panel: student arrest rates in MoCo schools much higher than in MD or US

On Monday night I was honored to be part of a panel, convened by the remarkable Montgomery Blair High School student activist Alix Swann, on the topic of “Youth Police Interactions.” Panelists included: R.: Alix Swann, Minister Kenyatta Gilbert, Rick Hart, Thomas Nephew, Officer Ana Hester, Julian Norment, Eddie Ellis

The panel — organized as part of a Girl Scout Gold Award project by Ms. Swann — was preceded by a viewing of a video she and other members of Montgomery County’s “Gandhi Brigade Youth Media” made, titled “To Serve and Protect?

Alix will be providing video of the panel and her writeup of the evening.  In the following, I’ll share the data and remarks I prepared before the panel discussion, which focused on one of the questions Alix circulated before the event: “Recently we have seen many videos of School Resource Officers using excessive force. Do you think School Resource Officers are important? If so, why?”  During the event, I excerpted from those remarks as Alix and the audience posed questions to the panel.

Prepared remarks for Youth and Police Interaction Panel
Congratulations on convening this important panel, and thank you for inviting Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition to be a part of it.

We share your concern about police reform generally and about youth/police interactions specifically.  Our newly formed Police Reform Committee is active on several issues touching on statewide and county police reform; broadly, we support greater transparency of police conduct, more effective penalties for misconduct, and a greater civilian role in overseeing all of that.  Specifically, our two police reform campaigns at the present time advocate…

  1. civilian participation in MCPD administrative boards – that is, a civilian role in the final stage of police misconduct review, and
  2. full reporting of SWAT team activities throughout the state.

MCCRC has also played an active and constructive role in local youth/police interactions.  I think it’s very worthwhile to remember that just a few years ago (2011 to be exact), County Executive Ike Leggett, many County Council members, and even advocacy groups like Safe Silver Spring were in such a panic about a fight in downtown Silver Spring that they advocated first a youth curfew and then an “anti loitering” bill — both designed to allow police to subjectively penalize youths they deemed a nuisance or a danger.  I’m still proud to recall MCCRC’s support of Leah Muskin Pierret and other high school students who successfully resisted the curfew — and then our successful collaboration with Howard University Law students to resist the  loitering bill.

That’s right — in the end, nothing was done.  Sometimes you have to fight for that.  But in the years that followed, we all did just fine without either a curfew or a loitering bill.  You’re welcome!

It might be that doing nothing, or at least the very absolute minimum, is often the best approach when it comes to youth and police – especially in our schools.  As persuasive as associations like NASRO (National Association of School Resource Officers) or our friends here from MCPD can be that their hearts are in the right place, we’re particularly skeptical of “School Resource Officer” programs in Montgomery County, Maryland, and the US.  American schools once did just fine without SRO’s – maybe, just maybe, they might be able to do so again.

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Digital Security Workshop recap: Protecting Yourself Online

X-Lab’s Jeff Landale hosted a Digital Security workshop to empower residents with the tools and skills to protect themselves online.

As if you needed another reason to protect your personal information, President Trump in April signed a law allowing internet companies to sell your browsing history to whoever they want. The new law scraps a Federal Communications Commission rule that let customers control what internet companies do with information on what websites they visit and with whom they exchange emails. Compounding the problem, the ensuing massive stockpiling of customer data in private hands will be a tempting target for hackers.

To fight back, The Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition partnered with Defending Rights and Dissent to host a digital security workshop on May 9.  Aimed at anyone who uses their phone and computer for work and in their personal lives every day, the workshop provided residents with practical tools and skills to guard their online information.

The Workshop was hosted Jeff Landale, Executive Assistant at X-Lab, an innovative think tank at Penn State University focusing on technology and public policy.  He spoke about the different threats most people encounter online and compared digital security to safety features in a car.  “You wouldn’t drive a car if it didn’t have seat belts,” Landale told the crowd.

A spirted crowd peppered Jeff with questions about the benefits of using a web browser that does not track users (Duck Duck Go) and encrypted messaging apps, like Signal, a popular app for those who want to protect their text messages.  Using ad blockers and virtual private networks (VPNs) were also discussed.

“Whether you’re supporting victims of domestic violence, engaging in activism, or just buying something online, everyone has a reason to want to protect their security and privacy on the internet,” Landale said.

While many of the protections discussed at the workshop are relatively new, protecting yourself digitally in the Trump era will be the same as protecting yourself in any era, since good digital practices are important no matter who’s in power.

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Maryland-wide SWAT data files obtained by MCCRC show need for standards *and* reporting

Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition (MCCRC) has obtained the detailed data files compiled by the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention (GOCCP) used to generate annual reports on SWAT team deployments throughout the Maryland between 2010 and 2014.

The files were obtained via a Maryland Public Information Act (MPIA, similar to the federal FOIA) request mediated by The data collected — mandated by the 2009 Maryland law SB447, which was allowed to sunset after 2014 —  include SWAT deployment-level details about legal authority, underlying reason, forcible entry, property seizure, arrests, firearm discharge, officer injury, and personal and animal injury  or death associated with each SWAT team deployment.

Unlike the GOCCP annual reports, which aggregated single year data to arrive at state or county totals, our analyses below focus on more detailed comparisons of SWAT deployments by police department, aggregated across all five years of data collection. The results show substantial variation among police departments in the reasons, legal authorities, and consequences of SWAT team deployments.

Figure 1 below shows the distribution of origin of legal authorities (the kind of judicial warrant or emergency) underlying SWAT deployments by law enforcement agency.  Fourteen police departments including PG County PD (1986 deployments) and Aberdeen PD (101 deployments) relied on search warrants for 95 to 100 percent of their deployments across the five year period.  This may be cause for concern since search warrants are relatively weak legal justifications for SWAT team deployments.  As the 2014 ACLU report “War Comes Home” puts it,  “Even though paramilitary policing in the form of SWAT teams was created to deal with emergency scenarios such as hostage or barricade situations, the use of SWAT to execute search warrants in drug investigations has become commonplace and made up the overwhelming majority of incidents the ACLU reviewed—79 percent of the incidents the ACLU studied involved the use of a SWAT team to search a person’s home, and more than 60 percent of the cases involved searches for drugs. The use of a SWAT team to execute a search warrant essentially amounts to the use of paramilitary tactics to conduct domestic criminal investigations in searches of people’s homes.” [p. 3]

Figure 1. Legal authorities for SWAT team deployments in Maryland, 2010-2014, by law enforcement agency; the total number of deployments is given in parentheses next to each agency. Data source: GOCCP, via MPIA request by MCCRC. Generally speaking, we’d prefer this chart to be less blue. Click the image to enlarge it.

It’s only gotten worse — the “TOTAL” stacked bar near the middle of the chart shows that only about 5 percent (light green part of the bar) of the 8249 deployments between 2010 and 2014 fit the “barricade” description, while about 91 percent of SWAT team deployments overall were authorized by search warrant. In our own county, 93 percent of 830 Montgomery County PD SWAT team deployments between 2010 and 2014 were done with search warrant authority; Takoma Park PD SWAT teams were deployed on this basis in 73 percent of their 15 deployments.

Figure 2 shows how Maryland law enforcement agencies differ in their distribution of underlying reasons for SWAT team deployment. Police departments like Takoma Park PD, and Calvert, Montgomery, and Worcester County PDs focused around 90% or more of their SWAT team deployments on situations where there was a violent or property “Part I” crime underlying the deployment.  Police departments like Aberdeen or Kent County were at the other end of the spectrum: all of their SWAT deployments were about “Part II” crimes such as vice and drug offenses.

Figure 2. Underlying reasons for SWAT team deployments in Maryland, 2010-2014, by law enforcement agency; the total number of deployments is given in parentheses next to each agency. “Part I” crimes are violent or property crimes, as opposed to “Part II” crimes which are mostly vice- or drug-related. Generally speaking, we’d prefer less red and more blue in this chart. Data source: GOCCP, via MPIA request by MCCRC. Click the image to enlarge it.

Figure 3 shows the distribution of combined legal authority and underlying reason  for SWAT deployment by law enforcement agency. Over a five year period, six police departments or sheriff’s offices used SWAT raids solely for non-Part I purposes that were justified only by search warrant.  Overall, over half (52 percent) of the SWAT raids in Maryland between 2010 and 2014 fit this description, with 26 police departments — large and small, urban and rural — exceeding that percentage over the same time period.

Figure 3. Combination of legal authority and underlying reason for SWAT team deployments in Maryland, 2010-2014, by law enforcement agency; the total number of deployments is given in parentheses next to each agency. Data source: GOCCP, via MPIA request by MCCRC. “Part I” crimes are violent or property crimes, as opposed to vice or drug related crimes. “SW” stands for search warrant; generally speaking, we’d prefer less purple (non Part I, search warrant deployments) in this chart. Click the image to enlarge it.

These and other charts are also available as an online slideshow.

No SWAT reporting since 2014 — Maryland’s legislative failure
There are questions the data gathered from 2010 to 2014 can’t answer: what was the age, race, and gender of the target or targets? In search warrant cases, did the target have a history potentially justifying the threat of extreme force? What was being searched for? When property was seized, how much and what kind of property was it — drugs, weapons, other contraband?  Many of these SWAT team survey questions and more have been proposed, and re-proposed , and re-proposed in the years since SB447 was allowed to lapse.

But the real struggle has been to restore any data reporting at all. In mid-February MCCRC’s Thomas Nephew joined a number of other advocates at a House hearing to advocate for SWAT reform bill HB0739 which, in its original form, included both SWAT reporting, training, and standards requirements.  Unfortunately — and despite the best efforts of both House sponsor Delegate Moon and Senate sponsor Senator Will Smith — crucial reporting requirements were stripped from the bill, amid claims that no one (not even Maryland legislators?) read the resulting reports anyway.

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Rockville “Fostering Community Trust” supporters counter FAIR, HSM claims

“If it bleeds, it leads,” that old adage of for-profit media, reflects two unfortunate realities: (1) advertising revenue determines content and (2) consumers have an appetite for the sensational. While supporters and opponents of Rockville’s Fostering Community Trust ordinance and similar legislation haven’t drawn blood, they did face off twice in Rockville in the past week: at demonstrations/counterdemonstrations on March 26 at the County Council Building and on March 30 at the Montgomery County Board of Education. Both demonstrations were organized by Help Save Maryland (HSM), one of a couple of opponent groups with virulent anti-immigrant agendas. (The other is Federation for American Immigration Reform [FAIR], whose Northeastern Field Representative, Jonathan Hanen, spoke against the ordinance at the March 6 Mayor and Council meeting.)  We presume the news media who extensively covered both events were invited by the organizers. It’s a symbiotic relationship: the media get controversy that boosts ratings and revenue and, in return, fringe groups get coverage and legitimacy.

“Fostering Community Trust” supporters square off against anti-immigrant rights protesters across the street at the County Council Building on Sunday, March 26.  More photos here.

The news media were also present at an event held between the two demonstrations and counterdemonstrations: the March 27 Rockville Mayor and Council meeting. The proposed Fostering Community Trust ordinance dominated the Community Forum section of the meeting, but best we can tell, no one reported on it. We assume this is because there was no controversy: all 18 speakers who testified about the ordinance spoke in favor of it and in defense of the diverse, inclusive, safe community it seeks to protect. Perhaps the corollary to “if it bleeds, it leads” is “good news is no news,” but we think this is a story worth telling.

Facts Matter
Many speakers urged the Mayor and Council to rely on the facts, rather than the fear or prejudice, in their vote on the ordinance. John Appiah-Duffell, a Rockville resident, cited a recently published legal brief from the libertarian Cato Institute showing that immigrants to the United States, whether documented or undocumented, are less likely to commit crime than native born population; that programs like Secure Communities, in which local police help enforce federal immigration law, are ineffective; and that there’s a strong correlation between lower education and propensity for crime, meaning it’s in our interest to educate immigrant youth, for the kids’ sake as well as the community’s.

Shuo Jim Huang of Silver Spring testified about a report from the Los Angeles Police Department showing that in the three months since Donald Trump took office, reports by Latinx of sexual violence and domestic violence have dropped by 25% and 10%, respectively, because victims believe they risk deportation by coming forward. Huang also noted that cities who honor detainers (requests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to local law enforcement to hold immigrants and additional 48 hours after their release dates) risk lawsuits for violating the civil rights of detainees.

John Yang, President and Executive Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, provided a national perspective on immigration, debunking myths that the country is experiencing a major surge in undocumented immigrants from Latin America and that undocumented immigrants originate only from that part of the world. Yang, who was once undocumented himself, noted there are 1.6 million Asian undocumented immigrants in the United States, 37,000 of these in Maryland, including nationals of China, India and the Philippines. Watch his full testimony here.

Teaching Tolerance
Alison Lepard of Bethesda, a Montgomery County Public Schools teacher and mother of an MCPS student and two graduates, wants all students to feel safe, but cautioned this can’t be achieved by vilifying a group of people. In the wake of the alleged rape of a 14-year-old MCPS student by two older classmates, both recent immigrants, Lepard feared that her immigrant students, who already are adjusting to a new language, culture and academics, could become targets of hate and even violence. “Humanity at worst when we believe one group is worth less than another group, and there’s no logic to fearing immigrants over this assault,” Lepard said. “After the Stanford swimmer’s assault of a woman, we didn’t all run away from Stanford students or from swimmers.” She believed Rockville’s proposed ordinance presents an opportunity that extends beyond the city. “We in Montgomery County and in Rockville in particular are privileged to be one of the most diverse school systems and diverse cities in this country, and I feel that we can be a model for the country, and say this is how we live together and this is how we work together.” Watch her full testimony here.

No Hate in Our State (or City or County)
Several speakers expressed alarm at groups like HSM stirring up anti-immigrant hatred in the community. One speaker, Colin Fletcher, who recently moved from Rockville to Chevy Chase, spoke about his father’s firsthand experience with Nazism. The elder Fletcher was born in the United States but grew up in Luxembourg, where as a teen he was arrested by the Gestapo in his high school math class and taken to prison camp for a year before being deported. He later joined the U.S. army and fought in World War II in Bavaria, afterwards becoming a history professor specializing in the Holocaust and a member of the Holocaust Memorial Council. His lesson to his son was this: “You must speak up early, you must speak up often, and you must speak up repeatedly against racism and bigotry, because once that campaign is started it is difficult to overcome.” Watch his full testimony here.

Immigrants Welcome
Many other speakers shared their personal experience as immigrants or with immigrants.

Gabriella Orellana of Rockville expressed gratitude for her single mother, who fled El Salvador’s civil war and entered the United States illegally in order to give her daughter a better future. She also spoke of her two daughters, both U.S. citizens, MCPS graduates, workers and taxpayers, without any criminal records. She urged community members to be more tolerant and educate themselves about how immigrants end up here, before rushing to “stereotypes or discriminatory conclusions.” “At the end, regardless of legal status, nationality, and any personal background and culture,” she said, “we all belong to the human race.” Watch her full testimony here.

Harriett Chen, a naturalized U.S. citizen who has lived in Montgomery County for more than 35 years, testified about how police in her hometown of Gaithersburg work successfully with the city’s diverse immigrant population and other residents to make the community “a tight, big family,” through neighborhood watches, face-to-face meetings, extra patrols and neighborhood block parties, among other initiatives. She spoke fondly of her next-door neighbors from El Salvador, including three teenage boys who help her shovel snow and do garden chores. Watch her full testimony here.

Salima Appiah-Duffell of Rockville, daughter of an African-American “military brat” and an African immigrant, recalled her own brushes with racism and xenophobia growing up in the Washington metropolitan area but felt very fortunate never to have a serious fear of racialized violence until this presidential election. She and her husband asked themselves where they should go if conditions worsened, but research showed they were already in best region for interracial couples. Appiah-Duffell believed this type of tolerant environment was no accident; rather, it was fostered by the government and community, and the proposed ordinance is another example. “It’s a choice that we can make in Rockville to keep our community the way that we want it.” Watch her full testimony here.

Next Steps
We have two successful counterdemonstrations and another very successful city council meeting behind us, but it’s critical we sustain the momentum towards a Rockville “Fostering Community Trust” (aka sanctuary) ordinance by advocating it every week at City Hall.

  • Please write to the council at saying you still support ordinance 11-3, “Fostering Community Trust.”
  • Please join us at the regular Community Forum during the council session, scheduled from 7:15 to 7:30pm, 3 minutes per speaker. If you want to speak, call the city clerk at 240-314-8280 before 4pm Monday to get yourself on the schedule. (If you can’t attend but would like to provide written comments/testimony, you can do so by emailing
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Analysis touting prototype MoCo “Countering Violent Extremism” program flawed, expert says

“To call [the “Montgomery County Model”] effective in the way they have would lead the average citizen to believe it reduces actual violence which is distinctly not the case. […To] say that it is an evidence based program after a single evaluation of a single component of the overall program is irresponsible.  To be “evidence based”, a program requires much more rigorous and repeated study.” 
— M.Garrettson

“Countering violent extremism” (CVE) programs have been in vogue in  law enforcement and counter-terrorism for several years.  The idea seems simple: enlist communities and their leaders in noticing persons who might be prone to violent extremism, take steps to watch those persons, and perhaps somehow guide them back to the straight and narrow.

Yet can the alleged potential to violent ‘extremism’ really be accurately estimated and acted on from one individual to the next?  Will one kind of allegedly violence-prone ‘extremist’ be singled out while others are left alone?  More broadly, is it right or is it counterproductive to try to turn communities or congregations into informant networks? Critics at the Center for Constitutional Rights, Defending Rights & Dissent, the ACLU, and many other groups raise these questions and say these programs often amount to thinly veiled institutional Islamophobia — as perhaps evidenced by President Trump’s plans to recast the programs as CIE: “countering Islamic extremism.”

WORDE has been touting this article for nearly a year as “proof of concept.”  Original copy here; online-searchable copy (Scribd) here.

One of the prototypes for CVE programs nationwide has been the “Montgomery County Model” (since renamed “BRAVE“, for “Building Resilience Against Violent Extremism) developed by the Montgomery Village based WORDE organization and its founder, Hedieh Mirahmadi.  (For an earlier post about this program and its proponents at the private/county “Faith Community Working Group” partnership, see here.) Employing methods honed in part during post 9-11 stints in Afghanistan, Mirahmadi (who has since moved on to the FBI) and WORDE set about creating an effective CVE program here in Montgomery County.

When Michael J. Williams et al published a 167 page report in June 2016 titled “Evaluation of a Multi-Faceted, U.S. Community-Based, Muslim-Led CVE Program,” it appeared that WORDE had succeeded.  To quote the conclusion WORDE has trumpeted ever since:

We found that of all of WORDE’s activities, their volunteer-service and multicultural programming had intended positive effects on 12 of 14 CVE-relevant outcomes. Additionally, there with [sic] no discernable [sic] unintended effects. To wit, these results make WORDE’s volunteer -service and multicultural programming the first evidence-based CVE-relevant programming in the United States.

Yet the report raises red flags.  For one thing, the report isn’t published in a peer-reviewed journal, but as a grant report hosted by a federal agency (NCJRS) that’s part and parcel of a federal domestic security apparatus dispensing growing sums of grant money for CVE programs. If a restaurant and the magazine reviewing it are both owned by the same parent company, five star ratings may be a little easier to come by.

Accordingly, MCCRC turned to a local expert to “evaluate the evaluation.”  Mariana Garrettson has a Masters of Public Health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and has made her career in violence prevention research.   Our discussion follows.

MCCRC:  Can you summarize the CVE program the authors evaluated for us?

MG: The program as they describe it, includes four components:

  1. Community education (to raise awareness of violence and offer sessions on things like conflict resolution, youth engagement and family support)
  2. Service provider education (to increase sensitivity to Islam and build relationships between different kinds of service providers–including law enforcement–who might be involved)
  3. Volunteerism and Multi-Cultural Programming (to get diverse youth and people working together in creative and volunteer efforts to promote civic engagement, cross-race and cross-religion social integration and family relationship building)
  4. Peer gate-keeper training (training high school students to recognize and assist peers who might be experiencing isolation, personal crisis, or bullying)

MCCRC:  Does the research presented truly support the key conclusion?

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Civil Rights Groups Demand End to High School Sports Hijab Ban #HijabisHoopToo

After sixteen year-old student Je’Nan Hayes was banned from competing in her varsity basketball team’s championship game for wearing a hijab, racial justice groups, civil rights organizations, and community members demanded an immediate change to the rules. On March 27, MCCRC, joined with Color of Change, Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), , and members of Je’Nan’s family to deliver over 40,000 petitions to the National Federation of State High School Associations demanding an end to the Hijab ban.

“In a country built on the principles of religious freedom, it’s outrageous that there’s a rule that singles out Muslim women and girls,” said Brandi Collins, Campaign Director of Economic, Environmental & Media Justice Departments at Color Of Change. “There isn’t a shred of evidence that this rule enforces safety and competitive fairness, instead it functions to rob individuals of their basic rights and dignity.  At a time when hate crimes have risen to a level not seen since 9/11, we simply cannot normalize this kind of anti-Muslim bigotry in our schools.”

Je’Nan Hayes wore a hijab for each game of the Watkins Mill High School varsity basketball season. But she was prevented from playing in the regional final on March 3 due to a rule from the National Federation of State High School Associations that states that in order to play with a hijab, students must have a signed waiver from the state. Administrators from Prince George’s County and the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association say they disagree with the rule because hijabs have no bearing on the game and there is no reason for the ban.

“I just want to be an advocate for boys or girls, anybody who is trying out for a sport and has a religion and they feel like their faith can interfere with the way they play sports,” said Je’Nan Hayes. “It shouldn’t be that way. And because of rules like these, I feel like it makes people scared or turn away from sports, and I don’t want that to happen to anybody else in the future.”


“No athlete should ever be forced to choose between their ability to compete or their religious beliefs,” said CAIR Spokeswoman Zainab Chaudry. “Sports have long brought Americans of diverse faiths and backgrounds together. CAIR is appalled that Je’Nan was barred from participating in the regional finals game with the rest of her team because of her hijab. But we are proud of her for speaking out about her experience, and we are strongly committed to making sure this never happens again.”

“Our hearts break for Je’Nan, but we are inspired to see our community, and people around the country, stand with Je’Nan and join the fight for her First Amendment rights,” said Sue Udry, one of the founders of the Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition. “MCCRC will fight hard to protect our students from institutional Islamophobia and racism. The grossly unjust rule against hijabs for basketball players must be rescinded.”

“I’m proud of Je’Nan’s tenacity to advocate for change not only for her state but also nationally, if not globally,” said Carlitta Foster-Hayes, Je’Nan’s mother.

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Justice for Je’Nan Hayes

The Watkins Mill High School girls basketball team made it to the regional finals this year for the first time. Every girl on the Gaithersburg, Maryland team got a chance to play in the championship game, except Je’Nan Hayes. The referee in the game wouldn’t let her take the floor because she was wearing a hijab.

It turns out there is an obscure rule prohibiting the wearing of head coverings, unless a student seeks and is granted a religious waiver by the state. The rule is rarely enforced, and neither Je’Nan nor her coach had ever heard of it until the championship game. Referees in Montgomery County, where Watkins Mill HS is located, never enforced the rule, but at least one referee in Prince George’s County, where the championship game was played, not only knew the rule, but was determined to enforce it.

It’s time to change that rule. It stigmatizes students, forcing observant Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and others to ask for permission from the state to be allowed to play sports while wearing religious garb. Ostensibly, the rule is in place for ‘safety’ reasons, but there is no evidence that any religious head covering, including the hijab, create any safety hazard whatsoever.

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