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Retired police chief detained at JFK Airport after trip to visit his mother

Hassan Aden, former police chief of Greenville, North Carolina, was held at JFK for an hour and a half by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents, he wrote on Facebook. (Police Foundation.)

NEW YORK — A former police chief was detained at JFK Airport while on his way home from a weekend celebrating his mother’s birthday, he said in a post to Facebook.

Hassan Aden, former police chief of Greenville, North Carolina, was held at JFK for an hour and a half by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents, he wrote. They said his name was on a watch list.

Aden became a U.S. citizen 42 years ago. He worked in law enforcement for decades. Aden now works as a senior policy adviser at the Vera Institute of Justice.

“I was in a room with no access to my mobile phone to communicate with my wife and family about what was happening,” Hassan wrote. “My movements were restricted to a chair and they had my passport.”

Aden was at JFK for a layover on his way home. He had spent the weekend in Paris celebrating his mother’s 80th birthday. It’s a trip he’s made many times. Aden has travelled abroad five times in the past year. Normally, he’s greeted with a ‘Welcome home, sir.’ This time, he was greeted with a ‘Let’s take a walk.’

He was taken to a back office, Aden wrote. Signs prohibited the use of phones. Detainees were required to sit.

Aden told them he was a U.S. citizen and a retired police officer, but he wasn’t allowed to leave. His name was apparently used an an alias by someone on a watch list.

He was eventually cleared to travel after about an hour and a half. He made his connecting flight to Washington D.C. with minutes to spare. He’s since contacted his U.S. Senators to complain.

“This experience has left me feeling vulnerable and unsure of the future of a country that was once great and that I proudly called my own,” Aden wrote. “This experience makes me question if this is indeed home. My freedoms were restricted, and I cannot be sure it won’t happen again, and that it won’t happen to my family, my children, the next time we travel abroad. This country now feels cold, unwelcoming, and in the beginning stages of a country that is isolating itself from the rest of the world – and its own people – in an unprecedented fashion.”