A group that organized to monitor the inroads of the Aryan Nations in Utah has refused an invitation to participate in a police training session on the impact of the white supremacist movement on minorities.
Leaders of aryanWatch, who criticized Ogden Police Chief Joe Ritchie last year for bringing in a white supremacist to brief officers on neo-Nazi philosophy, recently canceled their invitation to take part in the new session beginning next week.Spokeswoman Nonie Gilbert said the police chief has treated her group unfairly.
Gil Pacheco, an aryanWatch member, was invited in December to be part of the supplementary training session, Gilbert said. But after Pa-checo spent nearly a month preparing for the event, she said Ritchie told them two speakers the group wanted to appear were not acceptable.
"We invited aryanWatch to participate as an integral part of a multifaceted session. But it was never our intention to have the group plan the session," Ritchie said.
The chief said his goal was to ask speakers from Ogden's minority groups to participate, while Pacheco invited speakers who do not live in the area.
Gilbert said further disagreements with Ritchie arose because aryan-Watch does not feel anti-racist participants in the second session would receive time equal to that given Richard Masker, the supremacist who spoke in the first session.
Masker's briefing of officers occurred during four three-hour sessions held in strict confidence at the Ogden animal shelter.
The follow-up session is a pre-taped presentation that will be shown to all police officers. Because the session was pre-taped, officers will not have the opportunity for direct interaction with the speakers.
"If a tape is what he (Ritchie) desired, they abound," said Gilbert. "In person, those people could tell the officers what it feels like to be a target. In person, the presentation has got to be more impactful."
Ritchie said he decided not to opt for live presentations the second time because the question-and-answer portion of the session with Masker became awkward when periods of time elapsed during which nothing was said.
He said he felt time would be better served if only those officers who expressed interest in interacting with the speakers were asked to attend the actual taping of the session.
The session will include a round-table discussion during which officers who participate in the taping can ask whatever questions they want of the speakers.
Ritchie said it was unfortunate that aryanWatch pulled out of the session, but he said the event will be informative without the group.
"I can assure you that they won't be invited to participate again," he said. "They were invited once, and we won't waste our time or theirs."