Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen
has written a letter to the Administrative Office of the Courts
objecting to what his staff said were
derogatory references to Black Lives Matter
by the leader of a session on court security.
Griffen said members of his staff went to a training session Friday in Hot Springs in which an instructor, Ronnie Boudreaux of Advanced Law Enforcement Readiness Training (ALERT)
reportedly referred to the Black Lives Matter
movement as a hate group "like the KKK." When questioned about this, Boudreaux reportedly said Black Lives Matter was on a list of "threat groups." Griffen objected to the "mischaracterization" and asked that the statement be
Griffen said the KKK's past is well known, including domestic terror.
"By contrast, Black Lives Matter is not and has never been designated a terrorist organization by Congress, or any state or federal law enforcement agency. .... Black Lives Matter does not and has not endorsed or condoned violence against law enforcement officers or anyone else, for that matter. No authorized spokesman for BLM has done so, and BLM has explicitly condemned hateful comments by others that have suggested or encouraged that anyone engages in violence against or toward law enforcement officers."
Griffen addressed his letter to Pete Hollingsworth, director of security for the administrative office, and he asked him, Boudreaux and the director of ALERT to discuss the "cultural incompetence" of Boudreaux's remarks. Here's how BLM describes itself.
First, Marty Sullivan,
director of the administrative office of the courts, said the session was not sponsored by the administrative office but was a meeting of the Arkansas Court Officers Association.
Hollingsworth and other members of the administrative office were in Springdale last Friday at the Judicial Council meeting when the Hot Springs meeting took place. (The Judicial Council agenda included, as it happened, a talk by a federal appellate judge on avoiding implicit bias on the bench.)
That said, Sullivan said he didn't disagree with Judge Griffen. "Black Lives Matter has never been designated a terrorist organization, and I disavow this instructor’s comments."
Then, I talked with Mike Thompson,
a former deputy U.S. marshal who owns Georgia-based ALERT, which he said has been providing training sessions for court bailiffs and other court officers for 20 years.
"I've heard Ronnie teach and there's not a racist bone in his body," Thompson said. "If anyone said anything out of line, it was a misstatement." He said he'd check with Boudreaux and said he'd be happy to talk to Griffen.
Thompson said in 20 years of teaching such courses, "it's the first time anyone has ever lodged a complaint such as this." He said he took pride in the quality of his company's instruction and added, "I wouldn't have anyone working for this company who is prejudiced."
He said ALERT, as a favor to a former student and friend who works in Arkansas, had put on the course Friday at cost, about $2,200, for about 70 court bailiffs. He said Boudreaux, a former U.S. marshal in Louisiana, talks about many groups that can present potential threats to court security. He said Black Lives Matter had recently been added to the list. But he said the talk focused mostly on drug cartels and "sovereign citizens" as most dangerous. But he acknowledged that all groups mentioned, from tax protesters to Aryan and Nazi groups. were seen as having committed violent acts or acts that have "created a problem for law enforcement."
But he said, "We don't focus on any one group." He said he was sorry anyone took offense at the mention of Black Lives Matter.