Posted on September 9, 2004

Philadelphia Police Captain Sues Over Discrimination

AP,, Sep. 8

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A police captain testified Tuesday that he suffered retaliation for complaining about a sergeant who brought in a “bull’s-eye” poster of Osama bin Laden seven days after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Khalid Mohammed Syed, 49, was the first witness on the first day of trial of his civil-rights suit against the city.

A native of Pakistan and a U.S. citizen since 1981, Syed joined the Philadelphia police department in 1990. He said the poster incident made him “scared for my life” and “terrified” his wife and two young children.

“I just could not believe that someone would have brought that poster in at a time like that,” Syed testified, “at a time when hundreds of Muslims were being killed because people believed they were involved” in the Sept. 11 attacks.

Within six months, Syed was accused by students in one of his police academy classes of making a derogatory comment about gays, joking about the al-Qaeda terrorist network, and suggesting some recruits try drugs to stay awake in class.

Syed denied the allegations, but a Police Board of Inquiry found against him. He was suspended without pay for 15 days and transferred to the night shift in a South Philadelphia police district.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, Syed was “singled out because he looked the part. . . . The nation was in turmoil, and individuals such as himself who look different were feeling that turmoil,” said Jamie C. Ray, Syed’s attorney.

Deputy City Solicitor Laura K. Teresinski told the jury that Syed’s discipline was for not cooperating with the investigation of the cadets’ complaints and was typical for an academy instructor.