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Harvard National Security Journal




Twelve years after the September 11th attacks, countering domestic terrorism remains a top priority for federal law enforcement agencies. Using a variety of reactive and preventive tactics, law enforcement seeks to stop terrorism before it occurs. Towards that end, community policing, developed in the 1990s to combat violent crime in inner city communities, is being adopted as a means of collaborating with Muslim communities and local police to combat "Islamist homegrown terrorism." Developed in response to paramilitary policing models, community policing is built upon the notion that effective policing requires mutual trust and relationships among local law enforcement and the communities they serve.

While community policing in counterterrorism appears facially sound, this Article proffers that this endeavor is fraught with peril, both for collective civil liberties and the interests of local police in preserving relationships of trust. Accordingly, this Article examines how community policing exacerbates, rather than resolves, the underlying post-9/11 subordination of Muslims arising from preventive counterterrorism policies, notwithstanding the increase of homegrown terrorism threats from non-Muslim groups. The Article asserts three critiques of community policing in counterterrorism: (1) it is more akin to counter-radicalization taken from military counterinsurgency strategy than the partnership-based, traditional community policing model; (2) to the collective detriment of Muslim communities, it divides them into "Good Muslims" willing to cooperate with law enforcement on the federal government's terms and "Bad Muslims" who demand a meaningful quid quo pro that ensures protection of Muslim communities' civil rights and liberties; and (3) it deputizes Muslim leaders to gather and share seemingly innocuous information about their communities that may be used against their collective interests as part of the predominantly federal prosecution-driven counterterrorism regime.

Unless systemic reforms are made to federal preventive counterterrorism strategies, community policing is likely to aggravate existing civil liberties violations and impair otherwise good relations between Muslim communities and local police. Thus, a serious rethinking of proposals to implement community policing in counterterrorism is warranted.

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