City of Hamtramck Defends Islamic Right to Broadcast Prayer

When the Ideal Islamic Center moved into its current Hamtramck location on Holbrook Avenue, a short distance from the Hamtramck Senior Plaza; to say the least, heads turned and ears perked up.

It is a condition of the Muslim faith that the Islamic prayer, or Salah, is conducted five times every day. Typically, only mosques are permitted to recite prayer with the aid of amplification; however, Hamtramck municipal workers granted the Ideal Islamic Center (an Islamic youth activity center) the same right.

Carol Marsh, a resident of the Hamtramck Senior Plaza says, “When it first opened up [and] was gonna be an activity center for the Arabic youth, [it was] no problem with me.”

It wasn’t until earlier this year that Marsh felt disturbed by the volume and particular delivery of the prayer, “…now they got a youngster doing the call to prayer a couple times a day,” she says, “And he starts with ‘Hellooo! Wake up! And it’s in the afternoon when a lot of the senior citizens are taking their naps.” Understandably, the city of Hamtramck has placed restrictions on the volume of Salah broadcasts. Yet to the dissatisfaction of Carol Marsh and her fellow senior citizens, an independent study has confirmed that the volume of the prayer is in fact consistent with city-mandated decibel restrictions.

The initial ruling on Hamtramck’s noise statute occurred in 2004, with a special provision approved by voters for the allowance of amplified Salah. The essence of the decibel dispute comes down to the disjointed chain of command that receives and resolves complaints regarding the call to prayer.

In every other incident involving a noise complaint, a call is made to the police who are dispatched to the reported location and are responsible for resolving the conflict. Instead, in the case of Salah broadcasting, complaints and incident reports are directed to Hamtramck’s city clerk, and consequently funneled to Hamtrack’s city council. This misconnection and miscommunication lends an unnecessary political spotlight to Hamtramck’s Islamic population and confounds authorities as to the appropriate method of legal enforcement.

Hamtramck Chief of Police Max Garbarino and his department weigh in on the dilemma: “We don’t really have a horse in this race; we’re actually not in the process for complaints. We’re just trying to do our best to mediate it…I prefer to handle it personally and what I’ve been trying to do is just smooth it over the best I can.”

Though mediation can be difficult especially when two radically different cultures are sharing spaces in close proximity, Carol Marsh is quoted as saying, “…all of a sudden one Friday we couldn’t figure out where it was coming from but the loudness. We were looking up like we were looking for flying saucers.”

Garbarino continues by claiming that complaints have mounted proportionately with the increase of amplification, “There wasn’t really a whole lot of mosques of Islamic centers actually broadcasting. But as time progressed and the city acquired more mosques and Islamic centers, the call to prayer spread.” This increased frequency, and allegedly increased volume has certainly caused some disturbance among certain citizens; yet, Garbarino says he and the rest of his department have been specially prepared to resolve these types of conflicts: “…we’ve kind of been raised on it. As long as I’ve been here the community has been diverse. For myself and all of my officers…our careers have grown in this community so it’s just second nature to us.”

Hamtramck Chief of Police to Forge Deeper Connection Between Police and Underrepresented Populations

Max Garbarino of Hamtramck is the first (and youngest) police chief in the history of the city to engage in a dialogue with the city’s chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, or NAACP. Bill Meyer, a member of the Hamtramck NAACP states that he cannot recall any preceding police chief taking such an initiative and commends Garbarino for his efforts.


The meeting occurred on the south end of the city in the People’s Community Services facility on Saturday afternoon. Upwards of 30 people attended the meeting including notable appearances by Michigan Congressman Hansen Clarke, and Juanita Sephers, Hamtramck NAACP President.


Juanita Sephers commenced the dialogue by voicing a number of objections to the current state of affairs for minorities in Hamtramck and the surrounding area. Her initial criticism was the marginalization that African-Americans have faced when seeking employment in the municipal sector; in other words, Sephers felt that for so long to be an African-American and work for the city, “You had to know someone” she stated. In support of her claim, there is currently only one African-American working in city hall. She continued to express that this marginalization of African-Americans pervades the public sector, from the police station, to the fire department as well as the educational system. Sephers noted that that there is not a single black firefighter, and that qualified blacks pursuing careers in education are intentionally disregarded as white educators and administrators only consider black applicants after they have already “hired all their [white] friends”.


Garbarino attributes these systemic injustices to “a lack of communication”, which he suggests may be remedied by presenting these serious issues to the largely unaware public. Garbarino agreed that there is currently a lack of diversity in his department, a predicament that as newly appointed chief of police he is both empowered and determined to change.


Congressman Hansen Clarke was next to weigh in on the issue of minorities being marginalized and underrepresented in the public scope. Born to an African-American mother and a Bangladeshi father, Clarke is no stranger to the mistreatment of minorities and multi-ethnic citizens. The focus of Clarke’s criticism was upon the United States’ overwhelming and unjustified tendency to profile people of color, specifically African-Americans. He asserted that this racial mistreatment is most evident in the excessive jailing of young blacks convicted of drug offenses while young whites convicted of comparable offenses are given much more lenient treatment; regardless, Clarke is convinced that we as a country are facing a “mass incarceration of our young people”.


Raphael Thurin, another attendant of the conference and a member of the Hamtramck Community Initiative stressed the importance and effectiveness of neighborhood watch groups, in which residents remain on the lookout for suspicious activity in their areas and correspond with law enforcement. Garbarino fully supported Thurin’s comments and claimed, “That helps us to patrol…and keep the city safer”.


Garbarino went on to express that he does not want himself or his officers to feel that they are operating apart from the community and population they are designated to protect and serve. Though this initial and precedent setting meeting is as Titus Walker (an African-American Hamtramck School Board Member) puts it, “a good start”, there is much more work to do, and much more progress to be made towards making the city of Hamtramck a deeply connected and harmonious union of the governed and the government.

Attempted Armed Robbery of Hamtramck Pawn Shop Leaves One Dead, and Two Arrested

“It’s pretty stupid for anyone to try and rob someone in Hamtramck… our store owners are armed, and, not to mention, you know, we’re there in 30 seconds.”, says Hamtramck Chief of Police Max Garbarino responding to an alleged armed robbery of the Detroit Pawn Shop off Joseph Campeau Avenue on Thursday, August 1st.

When three men with guns drawn entered the Detroit Pawn Shop at approximately 2:30 p.m. the on-duty security guard engaged in gunfire shooting and killing one of the robbers on the spot. Max Garbarino is confident that the actions of the pawn shop security guard will clearly be justified as self-defense.

The situation was completely neutralized moments later when Hamtramck police responded to the incident, “I think our officers were there in under 30 seconds on this particular occasion,” says Garbarino.

It is expected that the surviving accomplices will receive criminal charges though their names have not yet been published.

Hamtramck Chief of Police Embarks to Bangladesh for Cross-Cultural Police Dialogue

Hamtramck Chief of Police Max Garbarino and a Hamtramck officer who prefers to remain anonymous due to his connections with the DEA, are the first participants of a state sponsored transnational police conference set to take place in Bangladesh. At the conclusion of the nearly 24 hour flight from the officers’ Metro Detroit headquarters, Garbarino and his fellow officer will arrive at the Bangladesh Police Academy. By spending time with the local authorities of Bangladesh the Hamtramck officers will heighten their consciousness of diversity as it relates to public service and protection both around the globe and at the homeland. The trip will also allow Hamtramck officers and Bengali officials to exchange country-specific police tactics and practices to further enrich policing methods the world over.

Garbarino is quoted as saying that he anticipates returning to Hamtramck with “a better understanding of Bengali customs” and is hopeful that more of his fellow officers will receive the opportunity to make the trip and gain a similar experience. Another goal of the meeting is to invigorate the multi-cultural community of Hamtramck, and to accredit the population of Bengali-Americans in Metro Detroit interested in pursuing careers as police. Currently there is only one Bengali-American enrolled in the Detroit Police Academy-a statistic that Police Chief Max Garbarino is driven to change in hopes of creating a more diverse work force .