LAPD Chief Launches Muslim Forum



(Los Angeles, 2/21/08)— Last night, about 25 representatives from various Muslim organizations met with Los Angeles Chief of Police William Bratton in the first Muslim Community Forum sponsored by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). Several Muslim organizations met before the forum to discuss goals for the meeting and to develop a common language.

The inaugural forum took place at Masjid Omar Ibn Al-Khattab, which was represented by Dafer Dakhil.  He commented on how a positive step such as the forum came out from a negative experience, the mapping controversy, last November.

The Chief’s Muslim Community Forum is co-chaired by LAPD Deputy Chief Mike Downing.  The co-chairs for the community are Imam Abdul Karim Hasan, a member of the Executive Board of the Shura Council of Southern California, and Salam Al-Marayati, Executive Director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council.


The co-chairs will be responsible for incorporating input from the community to develop agendas in future meetings of the forum.  The community co-chairs stressed the need for inclusion of all Muslim organizations committed to civic engagement, transparency of the process including the method of appointing co-chairs and an imperative for community input on all policies.  Chief Bratton assured the group that community input is critical for the dialogue to succeed.


During the forum, community input was encouraged in order to develop the structure and agenda for future meetings, which will occur on a quarterly basis.  Downing stated that “community engagement is critical to effective law enforcement” and that understanding the Muslim community’s concerns continues to be a priority for him. 

Deputy Mayor for Public Safety, Arif Alikhan, stressed the constraints applied on law enforcement to guarantee adherence to civil liberties and sacrifices made by police officers in their commitment to protect the public. Recently, LAPD officer Randy Simmons was slain.  The Muslim representatives asked for a moment of silence in honor of Mr. Simmons. 


Dr. Maher Hathout, Senior Advisor to the Muslim Public Affairs Council, noted that engagement with law enforcement increased only after 9/11 but underscored the fact that “Muslims have accepted these realities, as long as they are treated as partners not suspects.” 


Dr. Hathout also asked that future meetings of the Muslim Community Forum delineate criteria for membership and selection of co-chairs.  Chief Bratton concurred on the need for partnership and further stated that “the purpose of the forum is to identify problems and prevent recurring problems.”

Sayyid Moustafa al-Qazwini of the Islamic Educational Center stressed the need for educating law enforcement about Islam and Muslims.  Joint efforts for educating LAPD and the Muslim community about one another will be a key objective along with collaborative efforts for enhancing public safety.  One model that was highlighted in the meeting was the work of MPAC Board Member Omar Ricci in his educational presentations to LAPD.


The Los Angeles Police Department conducts similar forums with the following groups:  African American, Asian Pacific Islander, Gay and Lesbian, Hispanic, Clergy Council (Religious), and Youth.  These groups meet together with LAPD twice a year in addition to their quarterly meetings.


Founded in 1988, the Muslim Public Affairs Council is an American institution which informs and shapes public opinion and policy by serving as a trusted resource to decision makers in government, media and policy institutions. MPAC is also committed to developing leaders with the purpose of enhancing the political and civic participation of Muslim Americans.