By Ahmed Sharma, AsAmNews Contributor
Growing up, Deputy El Mehedi Boujaidi, said he loved watching action movies, seeing bad guys brought to justice. Years later, he would find himself being the real-life action heroes he would watch on-screen.
As a practicing Muslim and Correction’s Officer for the Bexar County Jail in San Antonio, he feels he is fulfilling what he was born to do. In fact, his own name, El Mehedi, means the Savior.
Born in Casablanca, Morocco, Boujaidi’s parents were in search of a better life for their children, and moved to San Antonio, Texas when he was five.
“My parents pretty much put their whole lives behind them so that my siblings could have a better life, better education, and better opportunities,” Boujaidi said.
As a result, Boujaidi said he felt forever indebted to them and therefore, strove for greatness.
“Pretty much growing up my whole life, I always kind of had that feeling like I got to excel since my parents gave up their whole lives, so we could have a better life,” he said.
Moreover, Boujaidi understood his family’s decision to move, and argues it demonstrated the ultimate sacrifice any loving parent could make for their children.
“When you think about it, these people literally put their whole lives behind them just so I have a chance, and that’s real love to me,” Boujaidi said. “So, I really try to make them proud.”
In addition to making his parents proud, Boujaidi explained he wanted to find a career that would mean something.
“When I was growing up, I told myself I always wanted to do a job that had meaning. Like a job that meant something to me,” Boujaidi said. “Like I didn’t want a desk job where I’d just sit there from 9 to 5, waiting for that clock to hit 5. I wanted to have a job where I’d have a passion for it. And something I was really into.”
After he graduated from James Madison High School, Boujaidi said he had dreams of entering the military but ultimately decided local law enforcement would be more satisfying. Before, Boujaidi worked while attending college. However, he said he wanted to get his career started but realized his age might hinder the opportunity.
“I applied to SAPD, but I couldn’t get in because I wasn’t of age yet,” Boujaidi said. “You have to be 21 and 6 months.”
However, an opportunity arrived just in the nick of time.
“That same night, I was watching the news, and they said Bexar County now hiring at the age of 18,” Boujaidi said.
The now 21-year-old has since worked at the Bexar County Jail for nearly a year.
In the short window of time he’s spent working at the jail, Boujaidi has managed to not only excel at his job but also recruited many other officers. He believes this is because his passion for work is so contagious.
“I have a Snapchat and I post a lot about my job like in uniform and a lot of my friends and ask, ‘oh you’re a police officer? How is that?’’ Boujaidi said. “And I start speaking to them about it – you know, great benefits, the pay is really good, all you gotta do is have college hours to rank up.”
Additionally, Boujaidi brought this positive energy to his Muslim counterparts.
“I was at the mosque, with the sheriff and these two kids, well, not kids, they’re like 18-19, they came up to me, asking me about my job,” Boujaidi said. “I took their number down and started speaking to them about it, and they applied and next thing I know I got like five people that applied.”
While perhaps not the first Muslim to be part of the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office, Boujaidi was selected as a Muslim Liaison for the jail. As such, Boujaidi serves as a moderator for the Sheriff’s Office when it comes to dealing with matters of the Islamic faith.
This is an ideal position for Boujaidi as he has noticed most Muslims tend to feel uneasy in putting their hands in local law enforcement.
“From what I’ve heard, some people are like, I don’t wanna call the police I don’t know what’s gonna happen, and I’m like ‘why are you scared? They’re here to help you,’” Boujaidi said.
In a statement, Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar praised Boujaidi as a valued member of the team.
“Deputy Boujaidi is a model deputy who takes pride in his work and heritage. I’m proud to have him on my Community Liaison Team, as our representative to the Muslim Community,” said Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar.
Boujaidi said he hopes his position as a law enforcement official and a Muslim, will ease any religious tensions some Muslims in the community may have.
“A lot of Muslims think everybody’s kind of prejudice upon them just ’cause of 9/11,” Boujaidi said. “Like it all goes back to that one date.”
While serving as a liaison for Muslims in the jail, Boujaidi notes the challenge with adhering to regulations of the jail with respect to religious customs.
“My position is actually kind of difficult because a lot of policies and procedures – like, we have to follow but we kind of have to find a work around with anyways so far, as a liaison, I haven’t had anything come up yet but I know when it does, it’s gonna be kind of a challenge, but we’re gonna have to figure it out.”
Boujaidi said he is not oblivious to the surrounding dangers in his work-life. In fact, he admits there is a strong sense of danger as a Correction’s Officer for the jail.
“When I first started, I had my – everything covered, my bag and I was watching everybody. In a way, I was so nervous. I wouldn’t say you’re scared, you’re just so nervous,” he said. “But once you stay there I’m not gonna use the word comfortable, ’cause you’re not supposed to get comfortable, but you kind of just pick up on inmate behavior.”
However, fearlessness seems to be the watchword Boujaidi adheres to.
“Honestly, I fear no man but Allah [God],” he said.
Boujaidi said he hopes his hardworking attitude will take him further in his career.
“I really wanna rank up,” Boujaidi said. “So every two years, you can rank up and when my two years hits, I wanna get up to corporal, after that: Sergeant, lieutenant, captain and if the sheriff wants either picks me to be a chief or whatnot, but I am gonna stay within the jail and I am gonna rank up.”
For now, Boujaidi said he hopes to continue making his family proud and those around him feel safe, by doing what he loves.
AsAmNews has Asian America in its heart. We’re an all-volunteer effort of dedicated staff and interns. Check out our new Instagram account. Go to our Twitter feed and Facebook page for more content. Please consider interning, joining our staff, or submitting a story.