Police in Las Vegas forge close ties to the city’s Muslim community


Source: The Washington Post

May 22 at 6:13 PM
The two officers were on foot, chasing down a skinny street player who was peddling crack and pot from a grimy West Las Vegas alleyway.

The dealer was fleet-footed, and the last they saw, he had ducked into a nearby mosque. Breathless, the officers stopped at the gate and considered their options. It was 2008.

“We stood there, hemming and hawing,” said Lt. Sasha Larkin of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. “We didn’t know anything about the place other than it was green. We were like, ‘Can we even go in there?’ In the end, we just walked away, saying, ‘Maybe another day.’ ”

The luckless pursuit, however, was not a total bust.

The department soon decided it needed plainclothed foot patrols in the high-crime neighborhood to better know the people who lived there, including the adherents of the Masjid As-Sabur mosque.

Now, Larkin and a cadre of officers are regular guests at a half-dozen mosques across this gambling mecca as part of a concerted outreach effort to the Muslim community. They grasp the tensions between Shiite and Sunni factions and have learned to observe key Islamic customs — officers remove their shoes, and female officers don hijabs during Friday prayer sessions. In an effort to build trust, they have emerged as empathetic problem solvers, helping religious leaders cut through city red tape, responding to reports of vandalism and cleaning up trash and abandoned vehicles.

And at a time when many police departments are trying to build better ties to the country’s estimated 6 million Muslims worshiping at 2,000 mosques across the country, Las Vegas’s program could prove a model for others.

“Very quietly, Las Vegas police have created a national model on how to connect two disparate cultures,” said Aslam Abdullah, director of Masjid Ibrahim, a Las Vegas-based nonprofit organization dealing with Muslim American issues. “I travel to Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles, and many Muslims there don’t believe me when I tell them that this kind of relationship is possible.”

Read more

Leave a Reply