The opening lines of a front-page report that appeared in the Monday, July 28, 2008 edition of the Connecticut Post said it all:
“Mustafa Salahuddin has a scrapbook filled with commendations he has earned during nearly two decades as a police officer. There are thank-you notes from people whose cases Salahuddin has investigated. There are certificates from the Ansonia Police Department marking milestones of service and successful investigations. But now, Salahuddin faces larceny charges that he says will tarnish the reputation he has tried to build as a respected and responsible officer.”
In July 2008, Officer Salahuddin was charged with stealing a $25 garden hose from the Ansonia Police Department, even though it was later found on the grounds of the department. Salahuddin maintains the charge was lodged in retaliation over his differences with the department’s leadership. He has a history of not only standing up for his rights, but standing up for the rights of others as well.
As noted in an interview with the Connecticut Post, Salahuddin stated, “I’m a very outspoken officer within the department. I stand up for my rights and I help others stand up for theirs.” This has resulted in friction between him and members of the upper command, including Ansonia Police Chief Kevin Hale.
It should also be noted that Officer Salahuddin was the first Muslim police officer in America to successfully sue his department for the right to reasonable religious accommodations - his request to wear a neatly-trimmed beard while in uniform. He believes that among other issues, there are lingering resentments stemming from that successful lawsuit which also factor into this latest attack on his otherwise sterling reputation.
Chief Hale reportedly asked the State Police to investigate the possible theft of the water hose after a Department of Public Works employee reported the hose missing, and a surveillance camera reportedly showed Officer Salahuddin with the hose in his possession. (You heard it right; the police chief requested the intervention of the State Police concerning a $25 waterhose, and before speaking with the officer in question himself.)
He said something else in his interview with the Connecticut Post that for this writer was chilling: “My tenure here has been good in terms of the community, but a disaster in terms of the department. On the streets I feel safe, but in the department I never feel safe.”
Officer Salahuddin’s principled commitment to being a “good officer” has been rewarded with very visible support from the community he has served. The state and local branches of the NAACP, in conjunction with a local church, led a protest march on Monday, July 28, in support of Officer Salahuddin. The crowd marched from the Clinton AME Church on Central Avenue to City Hall, where Ansonia Mayor Jim Della Volpe came out to speak to them.
Officer Mustafa S. Salahuddin has been placed on administrative leave with pay until the case is resolved. He has been charged with “Larceny in the Sixth Degree,” for which he has already pled NOT GUILTY. His trial is scheduled to begin on the morning of Thursday, September 4, 2008, in the Derby Superior Court - located at 106 Elizabeth Street, Derby, Connecticut 06418.
May Allah (swt) grant this brother freedom and justice.