The Wayne County Sheriff's Department recently hired in two young Arab American deputies in its jail division. Dearborn residents Mahdi Bazzi, 19, and Mohammad Younis, 18, were hired in last week as the youngest deputies in the department.
They were among 21 graduates in their program. "I know I'm young," Younis said. "But to start this early is really a blessing. The internal affairs office told me most people my age don't pass the background checks. You have to change quickly and up your maturity level."
The deputies maintain that they are well prepared for their positions and brush off any criticism that they are "too young" for the posts. They said the six week academy helped them sharpen their skills in physical training, weapons training and learning about communications and defensive tactics. Bazzi, a graduate of Edsel Ford High School, will attend the University of Michigan-Dearborn next semester.
He will be working in the county's Division III jail in Hamtramck, where one officer is placed to overlook 64 inmates per shift. "To work in Division III, you need very good communication skills and you need to learn defensive tactic moves," Bazzi said. He applauds the Wayne County Sheriff's Department for hiring diverse qualified individuals from the community–noting a shortage of minority officers in local police departments.
"You don't see that in other departments," Bazzi said. "I think they are doing a great job promoting diversity. They are one of the few departments that I see doing that. I've only been working there for a couple of days and it really feels like you are a part of a family."
Younis, who attended Dearborn High School, said he pursued a career in law enforcement because he enjoys public safety and aspires to protect and serve. "I encourage anyone to pursue this, not just Arab Americans," he said.
"Anyone that has any thoughts of doing any sort of job like this should look into it more, especially if you like helping people and you like being a role model." Bazzi said Arab Americans should be more optimistic about their potential in the work force, even if they are constantly met with challenges.
"It's not a job everyone can do," he said. "But it's great to be able to make a change and to see that departments are actually hiring Arab Americans. It's great for the community and it will help us. It shows that we are out there helping people."
The Sheriff's Department has been notable for hiring qualified Arabs from the community. Local departments have claimed that Arab candidates tend to fail background checks and have subpar credit scores, which disqualifies them from the positions.
But at Wayne County, Arabs seem to be having much better luck. Earlier this year, the department hired a Muslim woman as a deputy at the jail. Last week, Dearborn resident Assad Turfe became the youngest lieutenant in the department, at the age of 34. In October, former Deputy Chief Mike Jaafar received a promotion to chief of operations.
Jaafar told The AANews that Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon has set a precedent with his diverse office, noting that it's an accurate reflection of the county. "He is very effective in making sure qualified people are hired regardless of race, color, ethnicity or gender," Jaafar said. "It's a reflection of the community. He's very adamant we have representation that allows us to understand and relate to citizens in Wayne County."
Jaafar said the department is still hiring and is asking individuals to submit their applications at the Wayne County headquarters, located at 500 Griswold Street in Detroit. "We are hiring now," he said. "I encourage qualified candidates to apply. We are looking for energetic individuals that are looking for a career in law enforcement."
By Samer Hijazi