With Relations with city’s Somali community have been strained
By GOSIA WOZNIACKA
PORTLAND — The Portland Police Bureau has sworn in its first Somali-American police officer.
Officer Khalid Ibrahim’s swearing-in ceremony on Thursday comes less than a year after another local Somali-American, Mohamed Mohamud, was sentenced to 30 years in prison for plotting to bomb a crowded holiday event in Portland’s town square.
Mohamud’s arrest in 2010 sent shock waves through the area’s Somali community and strained relations with law enforcement agencies, which the city and community have since worked to repair.
“This is a historical day for our police bureau as we welcome the first officer from Somalia. We’ve put in a lot of effort to build relationships with the Somali community,” Assistant Police Chief Donna Henderson said at the standing-room-only ceremony.
The bomb plot was actually an FBI sting. Agents posing as al-Qaida recruiters targeted Mohamud, a former Oregon State University student, after the then-teenager wrote for an online jihadi magazine. The agents supplied a fake car bomb, and Mohamud pressed a button on a cellphone he believed would trigger it.
Mohamud’s attorneys argued in court that he was entrapped by the FBI, guided every step of the way by the agents, even when he grew reluctant to follow through.
Somalis in Oregon condemned Mohamud’s actions and some even encouraged the city to rejoin the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, which officials voted to do in February. One of the community’s goals since Mohamud’s arrest was to find a young man willing to join the Portland Police Bureau — a difficult task, community leaders said, because in Somalia people don’t trust police.
“This is a great day for us,” Musse Olol, chairman of the Somali American Council of Oregon, said. “We have worked for years to get an officer.”
Many of Portland’s Somalis have spent their entire lives in refugee camps, forced there by the country’s long-lasting civil war. Portland’s Somali community is estimated to number about 8,000, and represents the largest Muslim group in the city. Somali has become the third most spoken native language in Portland schools.
Ibrahim, 24, who was born in Somalia’s capital of Mogadishu and lived for a short time in Egypt, immigrated with his family to Portland in 2006. He attended Wilson High School and graduated from Portland State University with a degree in criminology and criminal justice. While in college, he started volunteering with the police and became an intern at the Portland Police Bureau.
Ibrahim speaks Arabic, English and Somali.
“He’s a role model for our kids,” said Jamal Dar, executive director of the African Youth and Community Organization. “He’s shown them that they can become whatever they want.”
Source: Associated Press