As a former Detroit deputy police chief and the current police chief of the , Ronald Haddad knows a thing or two about defending cities that have a sometimes unfair reputation.
In Dearborn, that has meant not only fighting crime, but also preventing hatred from seeping into the city, which has the most concentrated population of Arab Americans in the country. Haddad, who is of Lebanese descent himself, knows that his city has much to be proud of. But he believes that message could be clearer if it weren’t clouded by misinformation and prejudice.
“Dearborn is an example of a great American city,” he says, “but our example is sometimes diminished because we’re under attack.”
Attacks, Haddad continues, often come in the form of misinformation that stirs up action and counteraction in Dearborn. And when anti-Islamic forces—such as Quran-burning Florida Pastor Terry Jones—come to Dearborn under the guise of patriotism, it's all Haddad can do to keep residents subdued and the response minimal.
"People are afraid of everybody but themselves," he says, "and that poses a particular challenge for law enforcement because we have to keep all people calm enough to be vigilant enough."
Haddad, who is Dearborn's first Arab American chief of police, has served on the Homeland Security Advisory Council, and has been in law enforcement for nearly 40 years. His experience, he says, has prepared him to deal with extraordinary public safety situations. And in a post-9/11 world, Haddad says the role of public safety officials—both locally and nationally—has changed drastically.
"What came out of (9/11) is it did prepare us—be it weather, be it serial crime spree—to communicate better with each other at all levels of law enforcement," Haddad explains. "We had an extremely heightened awareness to the need for inner operability with equipment and IT functions.
"And 10 years later, I think we now realize that the true value added would be to involve the community in all aspects of assisting us and identifying things that would harm our community."
That may mean trusting police to keep them safe when hatred rears its head, or coming to law officials when something seems amiss with their neighbor, friend, co-worker or family member. It assists in what Haddad sees as the biggest goal of all: being prepared for anything.
"The most important thing we can do in public safety," he says, "is be extremely prepared to mitigate any kind of disaster—man-made or natural—that befalls our communities."
But it's hard to stay prepared when misinformation about ethnic groups—be they Arab or Hispanic or any other background—comes from many sources: The media. Politicians. Fear-mongers. Nativists. Islamophobes.
"The more you perpetuate (ethnically stereotypical) thinking, the harder our jobs will be to maintain peace," Haddad says. "It has to do with the way the country is running and the direction of the country. It’s much bigger than a police chief in Dearborn, Detroit, New York, or any place else in the country."