Dearborn Police adds a community voice to US force

Officer Mohamad Farhat was on duty at Dearborn’s Homecoming when a lost child who only spoke Arabic came up to him and asked for assistance. “There were a lot of kids who were lost,” said Farhat, who helped children on three separate occasions locate their parents. “They weren’t able to speak English and I was able to understand the message they were trying to send me.” 

Farhat, 30, is one of the latest additions to the Dearborn Police Department. He was plucked straight out of the local community. He attended Fordson High School, went to Henry Ford Community College and obtained a criminal justice degree from Madonna University. He had an opportunity to work for either Michigan State Police or the Dearborn Police Department. 

He chose the latter because he felt it was vital to give back to the community that embraced him when he left Lebanon in 2001 and moved here. “I spoke no English when I came here,” Farhat said. “I had to learn my way. I worked full time at Greenland Market and I had to help my parents with living, costs and housing.” In 2010, Farhat got married. 

He now has two daughters and still resides in east Dearborn. This year, he underwent extensive police academy training for 17 weeks at Oakland Community College during his hiring process at the police department. It was a challenge for him because it was Ramadan and he was fasting. However, the academy allowed him to take breaks for Iftar. 

In June, Farhat was assigned to patrol Dearborn’s neighborhoods with another officer. Having spent years working at Greenland Market, a local grocery store that caters to the Lebanese, Iraqi and Yemeni communities, Farhat said he’s been able to learn dialects and understand the slightly different cultures. He’s already been applying that knowledge as a community police officer. 

“Whenever I’m on patrol and we do runs, I’ll walk up to different homes and talk to the families in Arabic,” Farhat said. “They are very happy to have a police officer who speaks their language in order to send the right message and fix the issues.” He recalls another incident when officers were searching for a missing woman with Alzheimer's and were directed to go into a women-only hair salon. 

“I explained to them that you probably don’t want to go inside because females in there aren’t wearing their headscarves,” Farhat said. “Those little things are very helpful. They took my advice instead of going inside and running into a problem.” Earlier this year, the police department came under fire after two Arab police officers quit the force and claimed their co-workers were treating them poorly. 

However, Farhat said he hasn’t had any such issues. He said that Dearborn Police Chief Ron Haddad has an open door policy and is willing to hear out issues or concerns from new hires. But Farhat hasn’t run into any problems. “From the officers, to the corporals and sergeants, the whole department is very understanding,” he said. 

“They are always joking around with new officers. They call me ‘Mr. Fresh out of the Police Academy.’ They aren’t being serious about it. Nothing like that makes me upset and it has nothing to do with me being Arabic. That’s just my experience.” Farhat is one of a few Arabs to recently join the department. 

This month, Amal Chammout, a Muslim woman from Dearborn, joined the force as an ordinance officer. Other officers are also currently going through training and are expected to soon be hired. 

By Samer Hijazi

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