San Jose pays $400k to former police officer who alleged widespread harassment

The city of San Jose recently approved a $400,000 settlement for a former San Jose police officer who says he was harassed for being Muslim.

The former officer says he was subjected to jokes and teasing about September 11, and being a member of ISIS. After years on the force, his attorney says he’d had enough, left the department, and then filed a lawsuit.

"He sacrificed his career to make this point," said Randy Strauss, Attorney for Nabil Haidar, who sued the department in 2018. 

Haidar was born in Lebanon and is a practicing Muslim who joined the force in 1996.

"After the 9/11 attacks, he started to be targeted and attacked because he was a Muslim from the Middle East. What I mean is almost a daily basis, he was called names, really disgusting names, like terrorist, suicide bomber, member of ISIS," Strauss said.

The complaint says in 2003 when the United States invaded Iraq, harassment towards Haidar escalated. Haidar says he was repeatedly harassed during briefing meetings. 

Though he served in the military, Haidar says on Veterans Day 2017 during a meeting, a captain called him an ISIS veteran, and everyone burst into laughter.

"For Nabil, that was really the breaking point. That’s when he realized he’d never fit in with this group of guys and women. He was an outsider, he was an ‘other’," Strauss said.

After leaving the force and filing a lawsuit, Strauss says San Jose police claimed Haidar participated in the jokes and called it locker room banter.

"He was kind of shunted off into a recruiting role in basically a closet where he sat by himself and did nothing, and eventually he just realized, ‘You know, my career here is over,’" Strauss said.

In response to the settlement, the Council on American-Islamic Relations or CAIR released a statement saying in part:

"It is deeply concerning that the city and San Jose Police Department did not acknowledge any wrongdoing, instead choosing to trivialize his claims by suggesting he was a willing participant," said CAIR's Bay Area chapter. 

KTVU reached out to the San Jose City Attorney’s Office for an official response to the settlement but didn’t hear back from them in time for this report. 

Strauss said Haidar has moved out of the Bay Area.