FBI to hold town hall meeting in Riverside

10:00 PM PST on Wednesday, November 12, 2008
The Press-Enterprise

Members of the public will be able to question top FBI officials about any topic during a town hall meeting scheduled for this Saturday in Riverside.

The forum is being sponsored by the agency's Los Angeles field office and its Multi-Cultural Advisory Committee, which consists of 20 community organizations, including the Council on American Islamic Relations, the Pakistan-American Business Executives, Sikh Society and the LA Latino Muslim Association.

The aim of the forum is to allow citizens to air their concerns and promote better relations between the FBI and the community, organizers say.

No topic is off limits. Sal Hernandez, assistant director in charge of the FBI Los Angeles field office, and special agents will be on hand to address questions about civil rights, hate crimes, counter-terrorism, human trafficking, organized crimes and other topics.

"The meetings are held so that residents can learn about what the FBI does, how the FBI can help their communities, and really, to demystify many popular beliefs about the FBI," said Laura Eimiller, an FBI spokeswoman.

The event has the potential to "reduce and allay (the public's) apprehension and anxieties" about law enforcement, said Dr. Harki Dhillon, an orthopedic surgeon at the Riverside Medical Clinic and member of the advisory committee.

Two town halls were held in 2006 in Los Angles and Orange counties. This is the first time a town hall is being held in the Inland region.

At previous town halls, attendees have asked FBI officials whether certain communities are under surveillance and how individuals end up on the federal government's no-fly or terrorist-watch list.

"They've answered squarely and to the point," said P. Patrick Ashouri, chair of the advisory committee and former president of the Iranian American Lawyers Association.

The Multi-Cultural Advisory Committee was formed in 2004 out of concerns about the federal government's implementation and enforcement of post- 9/11 laws, such as the Patriot Act.

The committee's members meet regularly with FBI officials to advise them on cultural sensitivity issues, civil liberties and background check procedures.

Reach Douglas Quan at 951-368-9479 or dquan@PE.com

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