Upson County Sheriff Dan Kilgore recently returned from what he calls the “trip of a lifetime” where he spent two weeks in Israel learning about counterterrorism techniques and technologies while with the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange (GILEE) program. Kilgore was one of 19 chosen to be part of the 23rd delegation to go on this trip, which was organized by Georgia State University and was funded by corporate sponsors of the program.
“I have been wanting to go on this trip for a while and thought it would be a good learning experience,” said Kilgore. “Georgia State does a great job organizing the trip and I think I can use some of the things I learned over there, back here. Getting to experience how other cultures do things definitely makes you a better, more rounded person. I am thankful I had the opportunity to go. It was a real honor to be chosen.”
The group was made up of sheriffs, police chiefs, a deputy commissioner and an inspector from 17 Georgia public safety and law enforcement agencies, and law enforcement leaders from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation. Kilgore added they were a wonderful group of people to work with.
While in Israel, Kilgore stated the program took them from one end of the country to the other and they were able to tour many facilities and see demonstrations from the National Police Force.
“Their police force is not a local police force; they have a national police force that handles anything from traffic control to terrorism inside the country,” said Kilgore. “We were able to learn about Israel’s response to terrorism, which is a constant threat, and how they respond to any internal policing issues such as drugs and crime.”
Through GILEE they were able to tour police stations, the National Police Academy, see a case tried by the Supreme Court, visit Parliament, where they were recognized from the floor, and meet with the border patrol and see how they deal with trafficking-both drug and human-issues. He stated it was very interesting to see the different demonstrations of how the police force deals with disarming bombs, home-made missiles that are fired across the border and terrorism on a daily basis.
While Kilgore found it advantageous to see how law enforcement works in other areas of the world, one of the things he was most impressed with is how the Israeli police handle national and multi-national issues and community policing concepts.
“Something I did not consider before I went was a lot of the sites, especially the Holy sites, have interest from different religious groups and some may be from other countries or regions,” said Kilgore. “They (the police) have a tremendous community policing responsibility because an issue that could be created around a Holy site could have implications on a scale outside of Israel’s borders. They could cause some world peace issues. But, they are a very understanding, open minded culture and it was great to understand how they accomplished that.”
In fact, how the accepting and supportive the country of different religions is something that stuck out to Kilgore. For example, on the trip his group went into the ancient city of Akko and learned how the police deal with the different cultures that come together with their 9,000 inhabitants. To demonstrate how culturally different the city is they visited a Jewish synagogue, a Greek Orthodox Christian church with a priest who could pray in seven different languages, and an Islamic mosque that has a hair from the head of the prophet Mohammad preserved. When many different religions come together in the same place, it could be easy for tensions to run high between the groups, however Kilgore noted that was not the case.
“The police and the city do a good job of making things work from a community prospective. What I thought was interesting from them was that even though they are very different philosophically on religion, all are supportive of each other, they aren’t at war or battle with each other. If one has a religious holiday or an event, then the others recognize and support that. It was a good example of how people can get along even when they are different and have different beliefs and are able to survive as a community. That impressed me; I was pleased to see the hate wasn’t there. I learned a lot about community policing and community in general of how different people can get along even when they have different beliefs.”
In addition to the knowledge Kilgore is taking away from learning of their community concepts, his favorite parts of the trip were when the group had free time. During one of those days he was able to take part in a Jeep excursion through the high desert around the Dead Sea and on another he was able to have the opportunity to be baptized in the Jordan River.
“That was a very emotional and moving experience for me,” said Kilgore. “Personally, that was the highlight of the trip.”
Since its 1992 founding, GILEE has graduated more than 1,050 public safety and law enforcement officials from all over the world-about half from the United States, mostly from Georgia- through 312 training exchanges. More than 23,000 public and private safety leaders have attended GILEE’s special briefings, seminars and workshops.
Ashley Biles can be reached by calling 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @AshleyBiles1