As the New York Police Department has initiated and expanded counterterrorism efforts in foreign countries over the last several years, it has also aggressively tried to recruit speakers of Arabic and other languages of countries where Islam holds sway.
But a Moroccan immigrant who applied to become a police officer as a result of those efforts is suing the department, charging that he was not hired because he was a Muslim and was born outside the United States.
Lawyers for the city filed a motion asking that his claim be dismissed, but on Jan. 29, Judge Richard J. Sullivan of United States District Court in Manhattan ruled that there was enough evidence for the suit to proceed.
The immigrant, Said Hajem, took the police exam in February 2006 and said he scored 85.6, well above the passing grade. That June he received a letter of congratulations from Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly and began preparing to enter the Police Academy. Mr. Hajem said he had even decided to delay his wedding, hoping to get married as a police officer.
"I started dreaming of becoming one of the Finest," Mr. Hajem, 39, said last month, as he sat in his lawyer's office on lower Broadway, "an important person who is going to save lives and stop terrorism."
Now those hopes seem remote. It has been four years since Mr. Hajem passed the exam, but his application has been suspended in bureaucratic limbo.
Mr. Hajem, who said he became an American citizen in early 2006, said the hiring process faltered for him in July 2006 when an officer reviewing his paperwork, Ricardo Ramkissoon, told him that he disapproved of people from "other countries" joining the department.
Mr. Hajem added that Officer Ramkissoon had also rejected references he had provided from people with Middle Eastern names. "He told me, 'I need American names,' " Mr. Hajem said. "He said, 'You may be a terrorist.' " (More)