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Protesters upset with Syracuse Police participation in tactical conference

Tom Magnarelli
Protesters outside the Syracuse Police Department.

A conference for the New York Tactical Officers Association is being held at the Turning Stone Resort this week. Various social justice groups from across the state are protesting the conference which they say contributes to the militarization of police departments.

Outside of the Public Safety Building in downtown Syracuse, about 30 protesters called for the Syracuse Police Department to withdraw from the tactical conference or at the very least, not attend the presentations on Islamic extremism by Ryan Mauro, a national security analyst with the Clarion Project.

Protesters say they're worried Mauro's presentation will contribute to Islamophobia and racial profiling.

Sgt. Richard Helterline, of the Syracuse Police Department, said three officers from the SWAT team will be attending necessary recertification courses during their time at the conference. Brian Pickett one of the organizers of Wednesday’s protest said the conference is a step in the wrong direction. 

“If there are some positive workshops imbedded in this conference, I think that it is a problem that they’re within this larger framework which is clearly a militarized framework," Pickett said. "There have been numerous issues of police violence and brutality that social justice activists across the country are bringing to light."

Pickett said as a public agency, the Syracuse Police Department has a responsibility to take a stand.

"And I think that stand should be withdrawing from the conference," Pickett said.

A two-day vendor show at the conference, which highlighted the latest technologies and products from some large weapons manufacturers, is of concern to Ursula Rozum of the Syracuse Peace Council.  

“The more military equipment the police have, the more likely they are that they’re going to use it against the population,” Rozum said.

Mauro is scheduled to speak at the conference Thursday morning.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.