Spokane County Sheriff John Nowels Returns From Tajikistan After Talks on Training Partnership With Foreign Police


Spokane County Sheriff John Nowels returned home last week after spending two weeks working with the Tajikistan government and U.S. Embassy in Dushanbe, the country’s capital.

Nowels said plans are in the works to send sheriff’s deputies back to Tajikistan before summer to help train the country’s elite police force in modern police roles, such as active shooter scenarios and drone operation.

The training is funded through a subdivision of the Department of Justice known as the International Criminal Investigation Training Assistance Program, which sends U.S. law enforcement to help train foreign police and military units in modern tactics and strategies.

The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office participated in the program in Bangladesh in January 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic largely halted those trips. Two sheriff’s office employees participated in that training.

The training plays a larger role in the United States’ global strategy in preventing terrorism and human rights abuses by building partnerships with other foreign governments, Nowels said.

“They share 1,300 miles of the Afghanistan border,” Nowels said of Tajikistan. “They are on the frontlines of fighting groups like ISIS and ISIS-K, things like that, and their governments are very interested in preventing ISIS from spreading and having influence not only in their country and also around the word, and they have almost no resources.”

The Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, is the Islamic militant organization that previously took control of large portions of Iraq and Syria. ISIS-K is the radical affiliate group of the Islamic State that is active in Afghanistan and other parts of central Asia.

The U.S. government has the resources Tajikistan doesn’t, Nowels said. The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office acts as a “small cog” in that effort to share resources and bolster partnerships between the U.S. and its allies, he said.

The U.S. has provided $1.8 billion in development and security assistance to support Tajikistan security, civics and education, according to the U.S. Embassy. The U.S. is the largest single contributor to the country’s development, the embassy said last year.

Spokane County sheriff’s deputies would primarily work with the OMON, a special police force of Soviet origin that provides security to the U.S. Embassy in Dushanbe. Other former Soviet republics also have OMON police units.

Tajikistan, a former member republic of the Soviet Union, is situated in a mountainous region of Central Asia.

In addition to Afghanistan, the country borders China, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. The country’s 10 million people come from a wide range of ethnicities but are overwhelmingly Muslim when it comes to religion.

Nowels, who was accompanied by Spokane Valley Police Chief Mike Ellis and Spokane County Sheriff’s Office director of instruction Tony Anderman, visited the country during Ramadan.

“I have a completely different perspective of what Ramadan is and, frankly, what mainstream Muslim culture and beliefs are,” Nowels said.

That perspective is crucial to providing “community-oriented policing,” Nowels said.

The term is defined by the Department of Justice as a strategy for developing relationships within a given community.

“It’s about socially engaging into our community and gaining trust,” Anderman said. “It doesn’t matter what culture you’re in.”

Having deputies fluent in different cultures, particularly Muslim cultures, would benefit deputies looking to serve the county’s increasingly diverse population, Nowels said.

“We have an expanding Muslim population,” he said. “I think it becomes more and more important as we try to get better connected to our communities and particularly, maybe, to some of our minority communities that we do whatever we can to try and understand their culture.”

A final decision about sending Spokane County Sheriff’s deputies to Tajikistan this year has not been made, sheriff’s office spokesman Cpl. Mark Gregory said.

Source : The Spokesman-Review