Retired police chief detained flying home to US

He's a security consultant and a former police chief... a man who has dedicated his life to keeping America safe.

WASHINGTON (WUSA9) - He's a security consultant and a former police chief. He's a man who has dedicated his life to keeping America safe.

Hassan Aden now says he was "unreasonably detained" by US Customs and Border Protection after flying home from visiting his mom in Paris.

CBP says all travelers are subject to inspection.

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But Chief Aden said on Facebook that after 30 years in law enforcement, the hour and a half he spent in detention in secondary screening at Kennedy Airport has left him feeling "vulnerable" and "unsure of his future" in a country that he says now feels "cold and unwelcoming."

The police chief said he'd spent a great weekend in Paris celebrating his mom's 80th birthday. But when his flight landed at JFK, a customs officer greeted him not with the usual "Welcome home, sir!" Instead he said, "Are you traveling alone?" and "Let's take a walk."

Aden says he was taken to a back room with signs: "Remain seated at all times," and "Use of telephones strictly prohibited." He told the officer he was a retired police chief and career police officer. And he says the officer replied that "it didn't matter what his occupation was."

Aden spent 26 years as a police officer in Alexandria and three years as police chief in Greenville, South Carolina. He's been a US citizen for 42 years, the son of an Italian mother and a Somali father.

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Back in detention, another officer finally explained that someone on a watch list was using his name.  And for the next hour and a half, he was held while dozens of foreign nationals were processed and released.
 
Finally, a new customs officer started her shift, pushed hard for "another agency" to clear him for entry, and finally got approval.
 
Chief Aden wrote on Facebook that, "If this can happen to me, it can happen to anyone with attributes that can be profiled."

A spokesperson for Customs and Border Protection says he cannot legally comment on specific cases. But he insists that fewer travelers were subjected to secondary screening this year than last. And he says travelers may sometimes be inconvenienced to ensure they're entering the country legitimately and lawfully.

Chief Aden says the officer who led him into the back room insisted he was not being detained, even though he was not free to leave, or even call his wife and family to tell them what was going on.

© 2017 WUSA-TV


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