MUSLIM OFFICER UNDER FIRE
- MUSLIM OFFICER UNDER FIRE
By Mauri' Saalakhan
Peace and Justice Foundation
Muslims in the greater Washington area have become all too familiar
with how Muslims of varied cultural hues, coming from very diverse
economic and political backgrounds, have become the collective
target for the new McCarthyism sweeping post 9/11 America. A case
out of Connecticut exemplifies just how broad and nebulous this
targeting has become.
The opening lines of a front-page report that appeared in the
Monday, July 28, 2008 edition of the Connecticut Post said it all:
"Mustafa Salahuddin has a scrapbook filled with commendations he has
earned during nearly two decades as a police officer. There are
thank-you notes from people whose cases Salahuddin has investigated.
There are certificates from the Ansonia Police Department marking
milestones of service and successful investigations. But now,
Salahuddin faces larceny charges that he says will tarnish the
reputation he has tried to build as a respected and responsible
In July 2008, Officer Salahuddin was charged with stealing a $25
garden hose from the Ansonia Police Department, even though it was
later found on the grounds of the department. Salahuddin maintains
the charge was lodged in retaliation over his differences with the
department's leadership. He has a history of not only standing up
for his rights, but standing up for the rights of others as well.
As noted in an interview with the Connecticut Post, Salahuddin
stated, "I'm a very outspoken officer within the department. I stand
up for my rights and I help others stand up for theirs." This has
resulted in friction between him and members of the upper command,
including Ansonia Police Chief Kevin Hale.
It should also be noted that Officer Salahuddin was the first Muslim
police officer in America to successfully sue his department for the
right to reasonable religious accommodations - his request to wear a
neatly-trimmed beard while in uniform. He believes that among other
issues, there are lingering resentments stemming from that
successful lawsuit which also factor into this latest attack on his
otherwise sterling reputation.
Chief Hale reportedly asked the State Police to investigate the
possible theft of the water hose after a Department of Public Works
employee reported the hose missing, and a surveillance camera
reportedly showed Officer Salahuddin with the hose in his
possession. (You heard it right; the police chief requested the
intervention of the State Police concerning a $25 waterhose, and
before speaking with the officer in question himself.)
When I asked the accused officer what kind of support he has
received from his police union, Officer Salahuddin's response
immediately sent up a red flag. As a human rights activist who has
dealt with many cases of well documented police misconduct, I have
seen police unions throughout the nation mount some of the most
aggressive defense campaigns in support of rogue officers accused of
malicious beatings, wounding and homicides.
In case after case I have personally witnessed how police unions
will often defend the indefensible. But when I asked Mustafa what
kind of support he was getting from his union in this water hose
case, the response was "none." When I asked why, he informed me that
the union's leadership is comprised of management officers a clear
conflict of interest in any case where management has targeted one
of its own officers for dismissal and/or possible criminal sanction.
He said something else in his interview with the Connecticut Post
that for this writer was chilling: "My tenure here has been good in
terms of the community, but a disaster in terms of the department.
On the streets I feel safe, but in the department I never feel safe."
Salahuddin, 46, was born in Philadelphia (PA), and grew up in
Bridgeport (CT), where he witnessed first-hand the best and worst of
policing in the black community. When he joined the Ansonia police
force in 1993, after serving three years with the Yale New Haven
Hospital police force, he did so with his eyes wide open and with a
determination to be the best he could be.
"I always admired the police and had good role models during my
younger years," he noted in his interview with the Connecticut
Post. "But I also saw a lot of injustices done, and I thought
between the two, that I could be a good minority police officer."
Officer Salahuddin's principled commitment to being a "good officer"
has been rewarded with very visible support from the community he
has served. The state and local branches of the NAACP, in
conjunction with a local church, led a protest march on Monday, July
28, in support of Officer Salahuddin. The crowd marched from the
Clinton AME Church on Central Avenue to City Hall, where Ansonia
Mayor Jim Della Volpe came out to speak to them.
NAACP Valley chapter President Greg Johnson and Della Volpe both
voiced support for bringing in the U.S. Department of Justice to
investigate the equally important peripheral issues surrounding this
State NAACP President Scot X. Esdaile declared at the
demonstration, "This [case] is based on propaganda against this
police officer to destroy his name and destroy his wife's name, and
destroy his children's name You should not tolerate the use of your
tax dollars for this nonsense." This writer couldn't agree more.
Officer Mustafa S. Salahuddin has been placed on administrative
leave with pay until the case is resolved. He has been charged
with "Larceny in the Sixth Degree," for which he has already pled
NOT GUILTY. His trial is scheduled to begin on the morning of
Thursday, September 4, 2008, in the Derby Superior Court - located
at 106 Elizabeth Street, Derby, Connecticut 06418.
Insha'Allah, The Peace And Justice Foundation will be present to
monitor the trial and show our support for this besieged officer.
And for the record, this one is personal. Mustafa Sultan Salahuddin
is my brother.
El-Hajj Mauri' Saalakhan serves as Director of Operations for The
Peace And Justice Foundation.
He can be reached at peacethrujustice @ aol.com .
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