A former New Jersey serviceman has been harassed by other servicemen because of his Egyptian heritage, discriminated against by state police because of his Muslim beliefs and wrongfully fired last year after a car accident outside his official position, the lawsuit said. Tuesday at Hackensack State Supreme Court.
A former serviceman, 30-year-old Ahmed Abdallah of Woodland Park, said in a 12-page statement that other servicemen regularly subjected him to various racist and discriminatory remarks before he was eventually released.
His lawyer, Evan L. Goldman, said state police say they fired Abdullah because he did not follow the protocol, reporting a 2019 crash, the crash of one car that had no alcohol.
But other servicemen kept their jobs despite similar or worse violations, Goldman said. And the comments that Abdal allegedly endured – for example, other servicemen called him a “terrorist” because of his Muslim beliefs – confirm “obvious discrimination against this man,” Goldman said.
“Abdallah has been an active member of the state police for several years, doing his job well and ranking high in the number of people arrested,” Goldman said. “It seems there would be no other reason to get rid of this guy who had exemplary experience on probation.”
Abdallah is suing the state, New Jersey police and several unnamed individuals who claim they violated New Jersey’s anti-discrimination law by not recruiting him for service despite his qualifications.
He also claims that state police created a hostile work environment because of Abdullah’s religion and ethnicity and then protected his persecutors from discipline, among other things.
“The defendants’ conduct was extraordinary and outrageous,” the lawsuit said.
Abdalla seeks compensation for damages, including debt, benefits, punitive damages and attorneys’ fees.
Colonel Patrick Callahan, the state police chief, declined to comment on Wednesday’s trial.
Abdallah’s allegations include a series of racist comments made by faculty, colleagues and executives during his time at the agency, which began with admission to the New Jersey State Police Academy in Sea Girth in 2017.
In one of the alleged cases, Sergeant Abdallah at the academy told Abdallah that he was admitted to the unit only “because you are brown and a Muslim,” the suit said.
“It’s your golden ticket,” the sergeant allegedly told him.
After graduation, other servicemen allegedly called him a “terrorist” when participating in night shifts. And when he entered the barracks, the officers of his detachment allegedly played Indian music, pointed at him and laughed.
His superiors allowed him to attend the training courses he was looking for, even when he was in charge of his arrests and bus stops, the lawsuit said. And it says commanders are allegedly forcing him to work with additional details or place him in undesirable places known for their high crime.
In 2020, Abdallah asked his leader’s permission to pray in a mosque during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha. But he received a negative reaction when NorthJersey.com published a photo of him on duty – other military officials said he was “caught” in prayer and was likely to receive a written reprimand, the lawsuit said. The photo was part of a gallery published on NorthJersey.com in July 2020, featuring Muslims celebrating Eid al-Adha at the Islamic Center of Pasayk County in Patterson.
Abuse, alienation, and hostility became so prevalent that Abdallah eventually began reciting his prayers five times a day in his military vehicle rather than in the barracks, the lawsuit said.
He was assigned to various points in the barracks of Washington, Toto and Bloomfield.
Eventually, state police fired Abdal after a car crash on October 13, 2019, when he overturned his BMW in Woodland Park, Goldman said.
Police initially believed Abdal was drunk, but a breathalyzer test found no signs of alcohol in his body, and he was later released, according to a lawyer.
Woodland Park police took Abdal home three hours later, around 4 a.m., the suit said.
The next day, Monday, Abdullah informed his supervisor of the accident, arrest and release. But instead of accepting his bill, Sergeant Abdallah reported it to the agency’s home office, which, according to the lawsuit, has launched an investigation.
Abdal was eventually accused of failing to provide the department with important information, having an incident involving alcohol use, outside of his official position, making misleading statements and committing questionable behavior.
The Department of Internal Affairs has not made a final decision and has not found Abdal guilty of the charges, the lawsuit says.
Despite this, state police released him just as his probation was coming to an end.
“Without warning and notification on March 11, 2021, the plaintiff was advised to go to the station, surrender his weapon and be released from duty,” the lawsuit reads.
Steve Janoski covers law enforcement for NorthJersey.com. To get unlimited access to the most important news about those who protect your local community, subscribe or activate your digital account today.