County police swear in first Muslim chaplain


It was a historic moment for the Nassau County Police Department. For the first time in the department’s nearly 100-year history, a Muslim was sworn in as chaplain, set to provide emotional, moral and spiritual support to the department.

Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman swore in Rashid Khan at a ceremony at David Mack Center for Training and Intelligence in Garden City. Not only will Khan work with police officers and law enforcement staffers, but he will also be one of six chaplains who may be asked to preside at a number of county events, giving religious and spiritual aid to communities.

“We have so many events here in Nassau County, and all of our chaplains are actively taking part in that,” Blakeman said. “Throughout the police department, they’re doing all kinds of chaplaincy work. But they also are in the community and representing our police department in the highest manner.”

A resident of Valley Stream, Khan is the former vice president of the Islamic Center of the South Shore in Valley Stream, and has been in law enforcement himself for 25 years, volunteering as a Nassau County Police Department auxiliary officer. Khan owns a small cleaning business in Elmont, and has served as a court officer for the Valley Stream village court.

Nassau County legislator Bill Gaylor advocated for Khan’s appointment as a chaplain.

“I know he’s filling a void,” the legislator said, “and it’s much needed within the police department and our community.”

Several law enforcement agencies were on-hand at the county’s recently job fair ranging from patrol officers, to the probation department, fire marshals, corrections officers, and the sheriff’s department. The goal was to emphasize to younger people the importance of law enforcement positions.

“I know Inspector Khan is going to be there for me, also to help us better police our communities and better understand our officers,” said Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder. “It is clear that the county executive has put his stamp on both government and the police departments when it comes to diversity and the importance of it. I have eight police officers and a son now that are of the Muslim faith, and our chaplain will instruct our recruits about the faith and understanding of that religion.

“If you understand the community, you police that community better.”

It’s creating a bigger tent for all faiths Blakeman hoped to emphasize with Khan now part of the chaplain corps.

“One of the things that I want to market and celebrate here in Nassau County is our diversity,” Blakeman said. “Our Muslim community is growing, and we’re getting more Muslim police officers. So, we need a Muslim chaplain. We have one of the most diverse counties in the United States, and one of the things that we are doing is we are going out into minority communities and recruiting police officers in those communities.”