Hamtramck is getting a new police chief following the retirement of Anne Moise last month.
Jamiel Altaheri, deputy inspector and the commanding officer of diversity and inclusion at the New York Police Department, is set to become Hamtramck’s first Yemeni and Muslim police chief.
He brings with him 20 years of experience.
“This opportunity came about through friends of mine in Hamtramck and as well as the mayor there. I thought it’d be a good new chapter in my career but also my life,” he said.
Altaheri co-founded the NYPD Muslim Officers Society, and founded the Yemeni American Law Enforcement Officers Association to help break stereotypes of Muslims.
“I came on the job in 2004, hearing a lot of racial bias rhetoric, and I realized there’s a lot of ignorance within the police department, as well as the community and society at that time,” he said.
He says Islam as Muslims were misrepresented or misunderstood by many people. He wanted to change that.
“I felt like it was our obligation as Muslim police officers to create a society that will bridge that gap between the law enforcement community and the Muslim, but also be a voice of reason to let them know that we’re out there to serve,” he said.
There are now over 1,000 members in the New York City Police Department who are Muslim. Altaheri says the officers play a role in recruiting officers from their communities and making people feel more comfortable with the police department.
“When I first came in 2004, there were many supervisors, it was really hard as a captain or inspector at that time. And now currently, we have over 20 Muslim police captains, which it’s amazing just to see all this transpired throughout the years.”
Hamtramck, where Altaheri will serve as police chief, has a large Arab American and Muslim population.
A historical moment in Hamtramck
“It’s just another opportunity to just be a part of that process and be a positive change and in the city of Hamtramck, especially when it comes to public safety.” Altaheri said.
He says it’s an opportunity for him to share his skills, be a good representation of the Muslim community and showcase that there are qualified police officers “who happen to be Muslim and Yemeni American.”
“That’s something for me, as a testament not only to myself, my family, but to the community,” he said.
Altaheri hopes to build community relations to improve diversity in the city and among the police department. He says there’s been a lot of issues and divide policing Muslim communities, especially post 9/11.
“I think you need to be a lot more sensitive, you need to understand their culture, their religion,” he said.
Altaheri says having police officers who understand different religions, cultures can build trust.
“People are more inclined to talk to you once they know that you care about the cultural… you understand the culture, and the better communication you have with the community, the better you can serve them.”
Altaheri says he hopes to also create youth programs in the city through a youth explorer program and academy.
“We want to make sure that when they see the police they feel safe and not feel afraid,” he said.