Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Business

Tampa police 'active shooter' drill draws criticism from Islamic relations group

TAMPA — Before a mock "active shooter" demonstration by Tampa police on Wednesday, Senior Cpl. Jared Douds told a crowd of hundreds that mass shooting perpetrators come from a variety of backgrounds.

"Unfortunately, after all the studies the federal government has done, they haven't had an absolute demographic," he said.

But the drill itself sent a different message, a local Islamic relations group said. A Tampa police officer pretending to be the shooter wore a scarf that, according to the group, reinforced mistaken perceptions about Muslims.

"I think it's sad, and it's really irresponsible for the Tampa Police Department to reinforce negative stereotypes," said Hassan Shibly, chief executive director of the Florida chapter of the Council of American-Islamic Relations.

Tampa police said the scarf wasn't meant to portray any group as violent. Instead, it was meant to protect the officer's neck during the mock attack, said Tampa police spokesman Steve Hegarty.

During the drill, which was held at a Port Tampa Bay cruise terminal, officers exchanged fire using pellets that can leave welts, he said, which is why the officer also wore body armor and a helmet. The crowd also was kept at a distance so they wouldn't be struck.

"It was not intentional," Hegarty said, adding that Douds' presentation before the drill took care to emphasize that attackers don't fall into any one group. "They're not all young men. They're not all Muslims."

But experts say Tampa police should have put more thought into how they depicted the shooter.

"Context matters here," said Terje Østebø, director of the University of Florida's Center for Global Islamic Studies. "I think it's pretty regrettable that they didn't think that better through."

Anybody seeing a photograph of the drill out of context would think, "Muslim terrorist," he said, which reinforces fears and stereotypes. And though the scarf can be worn as a fashion statement, he said, "When people see this, there's no doubt where the connection would go."

Shibly said the scarf closely resembled a traditional Palestinian keffiyah. Østebø said the scarf was commonly worn in the 1970s and '80s by supporters of the Palestine Liberation Organization, but is also a general symbol of the Middle East.

James Gelvin, a professor of history at the University of California at Los Angeles and an expert on the social, cultural and political history of the modern Middle East, agreed that the scarf has the distinctive pattern of a Palestinian keffiyah. It is not associated with Islam, he said by email.

"It is therefore not offensive because it associates Islam with terrorism, it is offensive because it associates a people — Palestinians — with terrorism," Gelvin said. "It is also offensive because it associates peoples of the Middle East with active shooter incidents when most of those incidents in the United States (such as those that have taken place in schools) have been carried out by homegrown terrorists and disturbed American youths."

Shibly said the police should have been sensitive to how their dress might be perceived.

"They need to exercise better judgment," Shibly said. "We definitely hope they use this as a learning experience."

The drill was meant to show how chaotic and frantic a mass shooting can be, and how little time people have to react in the unlikely event that they find themselves under attack.

During the drill, a gunman rushed in and opened fire on a group of officers acting as tourists waiting in line at a ticket counter. They sprinted away before they met fire from a second gunman. Minutes later, the mock attack was over.

The point, Douds said, was that active shooter events happen quickly. He suggested that people consider what they might do during an attack whenever they enter a public space.

"Believe it or not, that little bit of a plan will put you so far ahead of the curve," he said.

Times staff writer Claire McNeill and news researchers John Martin and Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Contact Thad Moore at [email protected] or (813) 226-3434. Follow @thadmoore.

 
Comments
At Bay 3, developers of Tampa’s Armature Works transform old industrial space into new co-work offices

At Bay 3, developers of Tampa’s Armature Works transform old industrial space into new co-work offices

TAMPA — The name of the new Bay 3 co-working space at the Armature Works goes back to World War I, when the red-brick warehouse overlooking the Hillsborough River was the maintenance barn for Tampa Electric’s streetcar system.As the name suggests, it...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Many Americans still cannot afford a $400 set back

Many Americans still cannot afford a $400 set back

Could you pay an unexpected $400 expense?More than four in 10 Americans said they couldn’t without borrowing money or selling something, according to the Federal Reserve’s Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households released Tuesday.That’s a...
Published: 05/22/18
Target: New Tampa, Clearwater stores part of company-wide makeovers

Target: New Tampa, Clearwater stores part of company-wide makeovers

Target is renovating more than 1,000 stores by the end of 2020, including two SuperTarget locations in New Tampa and Clearwater.The Clearwater store’s makeover — which the corporation calls ‘‘reimagining" — just wrapped up, according to Target spoke...
Published: 05/22/18
Downtown St. Pete Ford’s Garage and Yeoman’s to open Wednesday

Downtown St. Pete Ford’s Garage and Yeoman’s to open Wednesday

ST. PETERSBURG — Ford’s Garage, a car junkie’s haven, has proven to be popular eatery across the state.Now it has a chance to drive customers to its seats in St. Petersburg. The restaurant opens its ninth location downtown Wednesday at 200 First Ave....
Published: 05/22/18

The hostile work environment checklist: How toxic is yours?

Workplace stress is hardly a new phenomenon. Everyone has a bad day (or even month) at work now and then. Your client presentation didn’t go as well as planned; your boss didn’t fall head over heels for your proposal; you had to stay late to finish a...
Published: 05/22/18
Career Q&A:

Career Q&A:

Q: Despite having a stellar employment record, I am concerned about two incidents mentioned during my recent performance review. Both involved accusations which were completely unfair.Several months ago, our human resources manager told me that I was...
Published: 05/22/18
Tampa-backed company with candy-like coffee thins inks deal with Dunkin’ Donuts

Tampa-backed company with candy-like coffee thins inks deal with Dunkin’ Donuts

TAMPA — Tampa-based private equity firm ProspEquity Partners paid $18.2 million less than three weeks ago for a two-thirds stake in Tierra Nueva, a Miami company with a new idea for coffee, and already it has some big news.Tierra Nueva has inked a de...
Published: 05/22/18
Proud mom orders ‘Summa Cum Laude’ cake online. Publix censors it to ‘Summa . Laude.’

Proud mom orders ‘Summa Cum Laude’ cake online. Publix censors it to ‘Summa . Laude.’

Saturday was Jacob Kosinski’s big day. His whole family, many from out of town, saw the Charleston, South Carolina, student graduate from his Christian-based homeschool program with a 4.89 grade point average and the coveted honor of summa cum laude....
Published: 05/22/18
It’s picking time at Brooksville blackberry farm, one of a handful in the region

It’s picking time at Brooksville blackberry farm, one of a handful in the region

BROOKSVILLE — Black follows blue in the berry patches of Hernando County, but blackberry proponents claim they’re worth waiting for.Today’s blackberry brambles are thornless and don’t require bending over to pick. Their fruits are mouth-full juicier,...
Published: 05/22/18
Amazon is selling facial recognition to Orlando law enforcement - for a fistful of dollars

Amazon is selling facial recognition to Orlando law enforcement - for a fistful of dollars

Amazon has been providing facial recognition tools to law enforcement agencies in Oregon and Orlando for only a few dollars a month, according to documents obtained by American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, paving the way for a rollou...
Published: 05/22/18