LA County Sheriff Candidates Meet the Muslim Community at the Islamic Center of San Gabriel Valley
By Rafique S. M. Ahmed
History was created on April 18, 2014 when the Islamic Center of San Gabriel Valley (ICSGV) opened its doors and invited prospective candidates to address and convince the Muslim community as to why one of them should be elected the next Sheriff of the Los Angeles County, the largest Sheriff Department not only in America, but also in the world with a $2.8 billion budget and 17,000 employees policing some 19,000 inmates in 41 cities.
The multi-purpose hall of ICSGV was tastefully decorated and packed to capacity on the occasion. The candidates comprising mostly the senior officials of the Sheriff's Department arrived promptly on time and were accorded a warm welcome. They freely mingled with the Muslim community during the social hour.
The candidates, including one who showed up the next day due to a misunderstanding, were:
1: Assistant Sheriff Todd Rogers
2: Assistant Sheriff Jim Hellmold
3: Chief of Long Beach Police Jim McDonnell
4: Retired Commander Bob Olmstead
5: Retired Under Sheriff Paul Tanaka
The program started on time with al recitation of the Holy Qur'an by Qari Yousef and translation by Basim Awan. Syed Mohammed Afzal Hussain, President of the Islamic Center of San Gabriel Valley, thanked the candidates for taking time out of their very busy schedule to meet the Muslim community of Southern California and encouraged them to follow the great example set up by the former Sheriff Lee Baca of working closely with the Muslim community. Haroon Manjali of CAIR California also paid glowing tributes to Sheriff Lee Baca for standing up for the truth and correcting a lot of false allegations against the Muslim Americans during a Congressional hearing at Capitol Hill last year.
After the initial speeches, Kamal M. Al-Khatib, a respected member of the Muslim community, took over the responsibility of the moderator, laid down the terms of the program and introduced each candidate to the audience. Each one of the candidates has a wealth of experience and knowledge together with a proven record of outstanding service of many years with the world's largest law enforcement agency. To tell the truth, each candidate has great potential, qualifications and experience to assume the responsibility as the new Sheriff of Los Angeles County.
Kamal Al-Khatib did a fantastic job. He not only asked the candidates pointed questions, but also encouraged the audience to ask pertinent questions to get to know the candidates better. The audience enthusiastically responded to his advice. Few of the questions asked are summarized below:
- How would they stop abuse in prison?
- How would they protect the civil rights of everyone?
- How would they handle the budget issues?
- How would they ensure that no discrimination will take place?
- What kind of Muslim outreach programs would they offer?
- Would they continue to engage the Muslim community the way Lee Baca did?
- How will they help the Muslim community?
- How would they encourage Muslims to get into law enforcement?
- What do they have to offer to the Muslim community?
- Have they visited any Muslim country?
All the candidates did a phenomenal job in responding to these questions in the light of their personal vision and experiences. However, one thing was common among all of them - n o compromise on the protection of life and property of all citizens at any cost.
The meeting lasted for two hours as scheduled and ended with handshakes not only with candidates but also with a majority of the audience. Everyone seemed to enjoy this unique and extremely informational meeting and appeared inclined to cast their vote to elect the new Sheriff. I must commend Kamal Al-Khatib for doing a great job as the moderator and also Ashraf Jakvani, Chairman of ICSGV Outreach Programs for organizing a very successful and highly professional meeting with the most senior law enforcement personnel in California as a public service to the community.
Voters in Los Angeles, California will cast their ballots June 3, 2014. Should no single candidate garner at least 51 percent of votes, a runoff between the top two vote-getters will be held November 4. The victor would be sworn in no later than December 1, 2014 as the new Sheriff of County of Los Angeles.