Hennepin County Sheriff's Office welcomes 1st Somali deputy
Thursday, May 09, 2013
While checking inmates into the Hennepin County Jail, Deputy Haissen Hussein seems about as humble as they come.
"I came to United States when I was 17 -- no English, like every other immigrant who comes to United States," recalled Hussein.
Hussein is the first Somali-American to become a sworn Hennepin County deputy -- possibly even the first in the state.
"It is an honor and to be the first is a huge responsibility for me," Hussein told FOX 9 News.
Hussein admits it's been a struggle -- from leaving Somalia to obtaining U.S. citizenship and now working in the jail. Convincing his family proved to be the hardest part.
"It's a challenge because they feel like it's not what I'm supposed to be doing," Hussein explained. "I'm supposed to be a doctor or a lawyer or whatever. It takes time for me to explain there is a difference -- me being a deputy than the military guy."
Hussein was born in Somalia. When he was eight years old, his family left because of the civil war. They spent the next 13 years in Kenyan refugee camps, and Hussein said it taught him a lot.
"It's a refugee camp. It was a very good learning experience," said Hussein. "It's not unusual. It's what everyone goes through."
While Hussein does not think his background is unique, bridging the gap between the Somali community and law enforcement is an interesting role. Beyond the language advantages, Sheriff Rich Stanek is grateful that Hussein continues to work on community relations and education.
"These are not things that happen easy overnight," Stanek acknowledged. "This takes a while to build trusting relationships."
A small group of Somali-American cadets work full time doing outreach -- and the numbers show more Somalis are proving to be more curious and receptive to everything from the benefits of calling 911 for help to learning how the inside of an American jail actually works.
Across the metro, a small but growing group of Somali-American officers came to support Hussein when he was sworn in last month. They are proud to be among the first but say they know they will not be the last.
"We are a team. We encourage each other, we push each other, we mentor each other," Hussein said. "That's huge in the community."