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Dearborn's first Muslim police chief aims to bring new approach to department

The chief's priorities include traffic safety, vehicle theft and presence in neighborhoods
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Posted at 2:36 PM, Feb 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-23 23:50:58-05

(WXYZ) — Dearborn is one of Michigan’s most diverse cities and starting this year, the city appointed a new police chief that many residents say represents the community.

Dearborn has a population of over 100,000, according to census data — of that, 42% are Arabs.

"I'm really happy about that, I feel representation is just so important in Dearborn," said Sara, a Dearborn resident.

Issa Shahin, 47, has been with the Dearborn Police Department for over 24 years, working up the ranks from a patrol officer to his last position as a commander of the investigative division.

Shahin says he hopes to bring a new approach to the department, focusing more on equity.

"It's important to me that while we are addressing crime, we are doing it in a way that we are not targeting or treating a certain group in an unfair way," he said.

Shahin’s vision is to make Dearborn a welcoming place for everyone including the men and women who serve with him.

"Traffic safety is one of my main priorities, I think it's important and the community has spoken on this issue ... they want to feel safe when they're driving on our roadways. In addition to that, I want to make sure that crime at night, larceny from autos, stolen vehicles ... that is also addressed and finally, I want there to be a presence of police officers in the neighborhoods," said Shahin.

Last week, 7 Action News looked at the new traffic unit launched under Shahin’s leadership to tackle reckless drivers. And Dearborn resident Walid Al-Siyaghy has noticed the difference.

Related: After tragedy, Dearborn aiming to curb reckless driving in the city

"He already changed it with enforcing the traffic, it’s a real problem here in Dearborn, everybody driving the SRT8s and flying down the street," said Al-Siyaghy.

We also reached out to Dearborn-based social service organization LAHC to find out their thoughts on where law enforcement goes wrong.

"Understanding the needs of the community, building bridges with the community is key," said Wassim Mahfouz, executive director of LAHC.

A Michigander of over 20 years, Mahfouz has seen Michigan’s diversity grow over the years and that's why he thinks Dearborn Police Department is heading in the right direction.

"Dearborn has the largest concentration of Arab and Muslim Americans in the nation and we have police officers currently who mirror that diversity of the community but also we need more," said Mahfouz.

Shahin is a second generation American, with an Egyptian father and an Albanian mother. And for him, a multi-cultural environment and studying abroad has helped him become a better law enforcement officer over the years.

"Being oldest of three boys, I’ve always had this guardianship mentality where I look out for my younger brothers, or I was always mindful of my responsibility as the oldest boy," said Shahin.

Married to a Jordanian American and a father of three, Shahin says he understands what protecting a family means, and through his job, he will continue to serve and protect all.

When asked how he feels being the first Muslim police chief in Dearborn, he replied: "I think it’s important to recognize that that’s not what defines me or how I do my job. But if it provides someone as a Muslim American to now think to themselves ... they can be a chief or a mayor, I think that’s important and I want people to ... know there is nothing they can’t do."

Chief Shahin says he plans to have an open-door policy where the community can reach out to him through email, or a phone call and he would love to hear suggestions on how to make the force better and the city safe for all.