Somali refugee becomes Cleveland police officer: ‘We are here to protect’

CLEVELAND – The Cleveland Division of Police Second District Station is like Maliko Hamadi’s second home.

"I always liked the thought of being a police officer or being in the military, but I didn’t know I would land in Cleveland," said the 32-year-old Hamadi.

Just 15 years ago, he was in a refugee camp in Somalia, about 7,800 miles from Cleveland.

"I wanted to come to America and it’s very hard," Hamadi told FOX 8 Thursday. "And when you find out you can come, you don’t get to pick where. I was sent in 2007 to Wisconsin, where my uncle lived, so I stayed there for a few years and I liked it a lot, too."

But Hamadi, like thousands of other refugees, decided he wanted to move to Cleveland, a city he was told was welcoming and full of possibilities. Cleveland also has a police department that provides refugee awareness training.

"It is more apparent than ever that this material is not part of any type of diversity training," said Samantha Peddicord, a who teaches Refugee Awareness Training for all Cleveland police officers. "It provides law enforcement with need-to-know information to better understand, serve and work with refugees."

Peddicord said it also encourages officers to become more involved with the community.

Taking time to walk in neighborhoods and try and help people, is something Hamadi and his partner, Miguel Gonzalez love to do.

"We can talk to everyone," Hamadi said with a laugh. He said he speaks about six languages and his partner, two.

"Where I am from in Africa, people are afraid of police. I want them to know we are here for them, we are here to protect and to help,"Hamadi said.