MN sheriff picked for homeland security position with national group

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 (Photo: Hennepin County Sheriff's Office)

(Photo: Hennepin County Sheriff's Office)

The sheriff of Hennepin County, Minnesota was named to a leadership position focused on homeland security as part of a nationwide law enforcement group.

Sheriff Rich Stanek was sworn in this week as vice president for homeland security with the Major County Sheriff's Association, according to an email news release from the department.

He's one of more than 75 sheriffs who make up the group, all of them serving counties or parishes that have a population of at least half a million people.

The purpose of the association is to harness the collective power of the sheriffs – who, in total, represent more than 100 million Americans, the release says – to advocate on a national level for public policy that supports local law enforcement agencies, Stanek told BringMeTheNews.

His new official role (which he was voted to by his colleagues and comes with a two-year term) is one he's held on an interim basis for the past year or so (while also being the group's Immediate Past President).

Stanek was originally sworn in as Hennepin County Sheriff on Jan. 1, 2007, and was re-elected in 2010 and 2014.

Homeland security

One of the most-discussed homeland security issues facing the U.S. right now is foreign fighters: Americans who leave the country to go fight for Jihadist groups such as the Islamic State.

Stanek noted that, of all the documented foreign fighters who have left the U.S., more than 25 percent have originated from Minnesota.

The Twin Cities is home to the largest Somali population in the United States, according to U.S. News, and reports note dozens of young men have left the state to join extremist groups in recent years.

Stanek said that when he started as sheriff, the issue was limited to "a couple of locales" in the U.S. Now however things have changed, with "dozens" of states and cities across the country afflicted.

"I've been involved in this from day one, and I always tell folks it’s borne out of necessity," he said.

Terrorist recruiting in Minnesota “is an ongoing problem,” U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger said in a Department of Justice news release, adding that federal and local law enforcement “remain dedicated to ending terror recruitment in our state.”

This past week, Minnesota man Abdirizak Warsame pleaded guilty to conspiring to support the Islamic State militant group. The 20-year-old was arrested in December and is among 10 men charged last year. He's the fourth of the bunch to plead guilty; five of his suspected co-conspirators are scheduled to go to trail in May, and the 10th man is believed to be in Syria.

A government task force investigation last fall studied 58 cases of wannabe Jihadist fighters being wooed overseas by militant groups, and found of those, 26 percent (15 suspects) came from Minnesota.

Three state lawmakers recently asked the Legislature for $2 million to invest in community-based programs that work to keep at-risk kids from turning to extremist groups.

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