Former NC Police Chief: I Was Detained by Customs Agents at JFK Airport - NBC 6 South Florida
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Former NC Police Chief: I Was Detained by Customs Agents at JFK Airport

"I certainly was not free to leave," said the former police chief of Greenville, North Carolina

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    A former police chief claims he was detained at JFK Airport for 90 minutes because of his name.

    (Published Monday, March 20, 2017)

    A former North Carolina police chief who now works as a law enforcement consultant said Sunday that he's disappointed with his country of 42 years after he was detained at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

    Former Greenville Police Chief Hassan Aden of Alexandria, Virginia, said he was detained March 13 on his return trip from Paris. He supports the officers of the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, but he believes his 90-minute detention was unreasonable, he said in a telephone interview.

    Aden, who is biracial, said a customs officer told him that his name was used as an alias by someone on a watch list. He said one officer told him that he wasn't being detained even though he couldn't use his phone and he had to remain seated.

    "I know how the databases work," the 52-year-old told NBC News. "It doesn't take 1½ hours to check someone out when you have their passport."

    Aden wouldn't describe the hold as illegal. But, he said, "an hour and a half becomes unreasonable detention."

    Aden described the scene in a Facebook post Saturday, adding that the officer who told him that he wasn't being detained has an "ignorance of the law and the Fourth Amendment" of the U.S. Constitution that should disqualify him as a customs officer.

    "I certainly was not free to leave," Aden said.

    Another agent began "agressively" requesting status updates on his behalf, Aden said, a move that appeared to finally induce his releaase.

    Aden said he became a naturalized U.S. citizen at the age of 10 when he was an Italian citizen. He worked for the police department in Alexandria for about 25 years, then as Greenville police chief for about two years.

    Clients of the consulting firm he now owns include the U.S. Justice Department, he said.

    With family in Italy, France and England, Aden often travels overseas. He says that won't change. But he is rethinking plans to send his 12- and 15-year-old children overseas as unaccompanied minors to spend the summer with relatives because he wouldn't want them to go through the same situation on their own.

    "This is my country and with things I see happening, I see certain rights eroding in the name of national security. It's worrisome," he said.

    A U.S. Customs and Border Patrol spokesperson said the agency doesn't comment on individual cases.