LOS ANGELES (CBS/AP) — One of the city’s top cops told a congressional panel on Wednesday that law enforcement agencies around the nation are still struggling to understand the threat of Islamic terrorism, particularly its role in the radicalization of U.S. prison inmates.

Michael Downing, deputy chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, warned lawmakers on the Homeland Security Committee that Islamic prison radicalization is a serious issue that law enforcement does not yet fully understand.

Downing added that  “we are on the front end” of a growing threat and a lack of any formal method of measuring the trend in federal, state and local prisons makes understanding the threat all the more urgent.

The hearing was the second in what chairman Peter King promises to be a series of inquiries into the radical Islamic threat in the U.S.

Republicans raised concerns about radical Islamic material finding its way into jail cells and prison chaplains who espouse a violent interpretation of the religion.

Democrats asked about gangs of all kinds — Asian, Aryan brotherhood, Latino and African American — that operate in prisons and return to society only to commit more crimes.

Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Calif.) said the narrow focus of Wednesday’s hearing “can be deemed as racist and discriminatory.”

Islam and terrorism has not become a centerpiece of the national presidential debates, but some Republican presidential hopefuls earlier this week discussed whether they would be comfortable with a Muslim in their administration.

Herman Cain, a former pizza company executive and little-known candidate to become the Republican presidential nominee, said he would not want a Muslim who wants to kill Americans in his administration.

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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