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Pasco deputies to receive training in spotting radical Muslim terrorists

NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco deputies deal every day with people who abuse pain pills and drive drunk, people who steal and throw fists and break windows.

But Sheriff Bob White plans to spend as much as $45,000 to make sure his officers can deal with suspects who haven't made many arrest reports here:

Radical Islamic terrorists.

Since January, White's office has paid terrorism experts about $22,500 for five classes for his officers. He plans to put on as many as five more $4,500 classes, focused on Islamic terrorism, in coming months.

Another $1,000 class for volunteer safety officers and honorary deputies is also scheduled.

That course schedule includes lessons on how radical Muslims groom their facial hair and wear their pants, as well as a "behavioral analysis technique to distinguish visually between moderates and radicals."

Though the money makes up a minuscule portion of his $85.5 million budget, such spending could raise some eyebrows given White's recent decision to take his fight for another $4 million in funding to the governor and Cabinet.

Spokesman Kevin Doll said the sheriff believes the money is well spent.

"Sheriff White believes it's appropriate training for our current world," Doll said.

The money for the deputies' courses comes out of the training budget, which is made up of state funds, not county property tax revenue, Doll said. Last year's total training budget was around $361,000.

The civilian course will be financed out of a separate fund, which also consists of state money, he said.

The courses at Pasco Hernando Community College will be led by Sam Kharoba, who runs a Coral Springs business called Counter Terrorism Operations Center.

In an interview, Kharoba compared his course to the training law enforcement officers receive in dealing with gangs or drugs.

Officers in those cases learn about gang markings, for instance, or how to differentiate among drugs.

"The training I do makes an officer effective in identifying signs associated with jihad," he said.

Kharoba has been training law enforcement agencies on recognizing radical Muslims for nine years. He got into it after he developed a linguistic software program for law enforcement, which can easily misunderstand or mistranslate Arabic names.

Deputies who take the two-day course get points toward their advanced training, though it does not count toward their mandatory training, which is on such issues as elderly abuse.

Doll noted that the 911 terrorists trained in Florida. "Unfortunately, terrorism is a fact of life, and we want to be prepared for any attempts that might occur in Pasco," he said. "Pasco is not a target-rich environment … but that doesn't mean home-grown terrorists might not try something in the county."

He added, "Nobody thought there'd be a Timothy McVeigh," the Oklahoma City bomber.

But aren't the upcoming courses focused on spotting radical Islamic terrorists — not homegrown Timothy McVeighs?

"But the way they conduct that terrorism would be similar," Doll said.

He said White wanted to offer the less intensive courses on spotting radical Muslims to security patrol and honorary deputies, who are "our eyes and ears in the neighborhoods."

"We're getting a lot of calls about it (the course). A lot of them are excited about it."

Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report. Jodie Tillman can be reached at jtillman@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6247.

Pasco deputies to receive training in spotting radical Muslim terrorists 11/06/10 [Last modified: Saturday, November 6, 2010 3:43pm]
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