Muslim, Lebanese American police officer files discrimination lawsuit against SJPD

SAN JOSE — A 21-year veteran of the San Jose Police Department has filed a lawsuit alleging racial discrimination from multiple officers in the days and years following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Nabil Haidar, who is Lebanese American and Muslim, said police officers subjected him to endless racist accusations, calling him “Bin Laden,” “Taliban” and “Beirut Bomber” while at work.

Haidar is being represented by the law firm of Gwilliam, Ivary, Chiosso, Cavalli & Brewer in the lawsuit against the city, Police Department, Police Chief Eddie Garcia and five other named officers. The lawsuit provides Haidar the option of including additional defendants.

The lawsuit says the harassment “escalated to a new height” when the United States invaded Iraq in 2003 to begin the Iraq War. Police officers allegedly said, “You’re not gonna blow up are you?” and imitated his accent while saying, “I’ll kill you all.”

Haidar was repeatedly referred to as ISIS, according to the lawsuit, and finally decided to pursue legal action in November 2017 after he allegedly was harassed at a meeting honoring veterans.

Briefing Sgt. Robert LaBarbera allegedly said, “Captain, you forgot to mention Nabil. He is an ISIS veteran. He was with ISIS for two years,” to Capt. Johnson Fong. Fong allegedly laughed and allowed the harassment.

Both men are named as defendants in the lawsuit, and an additional defendant was allegedly captured on body-worn camera making an explosion gesture and pretending to be a suicide bomber. Haidar alleges in the lawsuit that he now faces retaliatory behavior and emotional distress at work.

Haidar filed an administrative claim with the city in May of this year, then filed a claim with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing in July. After exhausting his administrative options, he received a “right to sue” letter from the state.

City Attorney Richard Doyle said in a statement the evening of Sept. 24 that “The City and the Police Department take seriously all allegations of race or religious discrimination.”

He added the city hasn’t yet been served with the lawsuit.

“However, based on the claim filed by Mr. Haidar with the State Department of Fair Employment and Housing, and our subsequent investigation, we have not seen a basis for liability against the city,” he said.

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