As Boston police Captain Haseeb Hosein, a former science teacher and a firm believer in the power of reading, assumes leadership in Mattapan as the department’s first Muslim captain, he plans to have his officers walking not only the streets, but school hallways.
“I want my guys to go into the schools and spend 30 minutes and read” with a child, said Hosein, 52, who received his captain’s shield Wednesday in a ceremony at police headquarters. “I hate that police officers are always the bad guy. We should be an asset.”
Hosein’s promotion makes him the highest-ranking Muslim in the department, according to a police spokesman, and one of three minority captains .
“The promotion to captain of Haseeb Hosein goes directly to my commitment of making the police department more reflective of the community we serve,” Police Commissioner William Evans said in a statement. “It is both historic and an honor for me to promote the first black Muslim captain to my command staff.”
Mayor Martin J. Walsh said Hosein is “a fantastic addition to the leadership.”
“He is an exceptionally skilled, qualified officer, with over two decades of experience in our neighborhoods,” Walsh said in a statement. “He will be a strong advocate and continue to build upon the strong community relationships we have developed in Mattapan.”
A 26-year veteran of the department who most recently worked as a lieutenant in Hyde Park, Hosein came with his parents to America from Trinidad when he was 10. He grew up in the Fields Corner section of Dorchester. Hosein received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts Boston and a master’s in criminal justice from Boston University and served in the Marine Corps for 11 years. He is married with three grown children.
Before joining the Police Department, he taught high school science for a year in Florida and then middle school science in the Boston school system for three years.
As a police officer, he has worked all over the city, including a stint in Roxbury from 1993 to 2004, when homicide rates sometimes topped 80 per year.
“I know Boston, I know it real well,” he said. “I feel very committed.”
Mattapan is one of the city’s most violent districts, with nine homicides this year by Oct. 19, according to police statistics. Hosein said the district’s former leader, Captain Joseph Boyle, laid a strong foundation of community policing, and he plans to continue those policies, including an emphasis on walking beats and community policing.
“For me, gun violence and education is going to be the emphasis,” said Hosein. “Captain Boyle has done a great job over here.”
Police know who the troublemakers are, he said, and officers will be targeting them.
“I’m going to introduce myself to them. I’m going to have a keen, dedicated focus on them,” said Hosein. “We’re going to know them better than they know themselves.”
But Hosein said his officers will be respectful, and they will focus on violence prevention as well. He said he is looking forward to working with school police and to getting officers inside elementary schools to read with children. He also plans to try to start a youth tennis program in Mattapan similar to one run by an officer in South Boston. He will continue a boat cruise for the elderly that Boyle started, as well as the district’s partnership with churches and the clergy.
“Engaging the community really works for getting guns off the streets,” he said. “If we can really truly get them on board, have them believe that they’re partners, we’re here with them. We’re not an occupying force.”
Hosein served a four-month suspension after a complaint in 2007 that he and several other officers repeatedly under-reported hours while performing paid details, according to police records. Boston Police spokesman Sergeant Michael McCarthy said the department has moved past the incident.
“We’re not a department that holds something over somebody’s head,” said McCarthy. “It doesn’t make him any less qualified or deserving of a promotion.”
Hosein also said he had put the incident behind him.
“The police commissioner and the mayor looked at my record and they have faith that I can do the job,” he said.
As the department’s first Muslim captain, he said, he feels he can inspire young Muslims to join the force and serve as an ambassador for a faith that is often viewed negatively.
“I can be a voice to denounce violence, and let people know that the 1.6 billion Muslims [in the world] are just like them,” Hosein said. “I hope to be that voice that speaks out loud.”