An of­fi­cer and a refugee: New po­lice­man strad­dles two worlds

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY HOLLY RAMER

MANCH­ESTER, N.H. | Soon af­ter ar­riv­ing in New Hampshire as a teenager, Ab­des­se­lam Bad­daoui met two fel­low refugees who ac­ci­den­tally ended up in­volved in a crim­i­nal case be­cause, af­ter be­ing in­structed about do­mes­tic vi­o­lence laws, the wife mis­tak­enly be­lieved she had to call po­lice any time she and her hus­band ar­gued.

“He got mad. She got mad, she picked up the phone, called 911. Po­lice are at the door and ar­rest the hus­band. She didn’t un­der­stand,” he said. “That stuck with me.”

Six­teen years later, Mr. Bad­daoui is one of the new­est mem­bers of the po­lice de­part­ment in New Hampshire’s largest city, where he hopes to help newer refugees avoid such mis­un­der­stand­ings. He and four other re­cruits, se­lected from about 200 ap­pli­cants, were sworn in last week and are be­gin­ning months of in­ten­sive train­ing.

Manch­ester, pop­u­la­tion 110,000, joins a hand­ful of cities na­tion­wide, mostly much larger, where po­lice de­part­ments are specif­i­cally re­cruit­ing refugees amid a po­lit­i­cal cli­mate in which some quar­ters accuse them of tak­ing jobs or, in the case of Mus­lims, pos­ing a po­ten­tial se­cu­rity threat.

No one knows for sure how many for­mer refugees are work­ing as po­lice of­fi­cers in the U.S. But cities em­ploy­ing them in­clude New York, Mi­ami, Hous­ton and Min­neapo­lis, said Robert Tay­lor, a pro­fes­sor of crim­i­nol­ogy at the Uni­ver­sity of Texas at Dal­las. Oth­ers, in­clud­ing some in Cal­i­for­nia, have hired refugees as part-time “pub­lic ser­vice of­fi­cers.”

“Where there is in­deed a fairly sig­nif­i­cant refugee pop­u­la­tion, the en­light­ened po­lice de­part­ments are reach­ing out to those com­mu­ni­ties and try­ing to say, ‘Let’s build some bridges, let’s build some trust, let’s build a way we can deal with the prob­lems you have in your com­mu­ni­ties,’ ” Mr. Tay­lor said.

Such of­fi­cers help mit­i­gate not just lan­guage bar­ri­ers, but also cul­tural bar­ri­ers, Mr. Tay­lor said. For in­stance, show­ing fel­low refugees that in the United States, the po­lice are sup­posed to be the good guys.

Mr. Bad­daoui, 30, was born in Al­ge­ria and lived there for 10 years be­fore mov­ing to Syria and then Le­banon. In 2000 his fam­ily was placed in Manch­ester, a place he had never heard of. He re­mem­bers go­ing to an in­ter­net cafe and com­ing up with in­for­ma­tion only about Manch­ester, Eng­land.

He grad­u­ated from Manch­ester’s Cen­tral High School in 2004 and be­came a U.S. cit­i­zen in 2006. He con­sid­ered pur­su­ing a cor­po­rate ca­reer af­ter col­lege and had worked in sales, but said law en­force­ment was al­ways in the back of his mind.

“I felt that I needed to have some sort of pur­pose, do some­thing that means some­thing to me,” he said. “I like the chal­lenge, be­cause of the feel­ing you get af­ter fin­ish­ing. When you go through some­thing re­ally hard, I feel like I’ve done that a few times in my life, and then the feel­ing of re­ward af­ter­wards, that’s some­thing I rel­ish.”

Chief Nick Wil­lard said Mr. Bad­daoui, like the other new of­fi­cers, was cho­sen based on his cre­den­tials and, most im­por­tant, his in­tegrity.

“Given my in­cred­i­ble re­spect for the re­set­tle­ment com­mu­nity in Manch­ester and how they have en­riched the city in their own diver­sity,” he said, “I’m ex­cited be­cause he’s go­ing to bring a com­pletely dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive.”

About 3,300 refugees moved to New Hampshire be­tween 2008 and 2014, with the largest group com­ing from Bhutan. Many live in Manch­ester, which has been try­ing to di­ver­sify its po­lice force, Chief Wil­lard said.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ab­des­se­lam Bad­daoui, who came to the U.S. as a refugee from the Mid­dle East, is a newer mem­ber of the po­lice de­part­ment in Manch­ester, New Hampshire.

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