Two officers with the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department have been suspended for nearly two years as a result of their decisions to convert to Islam and change their legal names, according to a religious discrimination and retaliation complaint they recently filed in D.C. Superior Court. The two men, who reached their conversion decisions separately, and both are veteran officers. One has been on the force since 2002, and the other since 2004.
According to the two men, each decided to convert to Islam in 2010 for reasons of spiritual fulfillment. As is customary in such cases, the men celebrated their religious conversions by changing their original names to Muslim ones. Both were able to obtain new government-issued ID cards with the new names, but one of them was turned down by the police department when he tried to get a new ID badge.
In 2011, both men were abruptly suspended, allegedly at the instigation of the MPD's police chief and an internal affairs officer. They were found not guilty of misconduct by a review board, and they consider those suspensions to have been retaliation for their religious views and name changes.
The two men also claim that the internal affairs officer pressured the State of Maryland to review the legality of their personal driver's licenses because they were issued in their new, Muslim names.
Only a day after they returned to work from the first suspension, both men were suspended again, this time without notice of any allegations of wrongdoing. These second suspensions appear to be essentially permanent, as they remained in effect at the time they filed the lawsuit. Both men claim the chief of police and the internal affairs officers put the second suspensions into place in direct retaliation for their complaints that the first suspensions were discriminatory.
Their continuing suspensions, which are with pay, have harmed the two men by keeping them from working elsewhere even part time, keeping them from being promoted and depriving them of overtime -- all without any legal reason. The men are seeking reinstatement, along with $16 million in compensatory and punitive damages, for civil rights violations and religious discrimination.
Source: Courthouse News Service, "Docked for Religion, Muslim Cops Say," Feb. 1, 2013