Circassian became undersheriff in the state of New Jersey (USA)

Nart Hapatsha with his daughter, Tatiana and his son, Albert. (Photo: Richard Cowen)

Nart Hapatsha became the first Muslim to be appointed Passaic County (New Jersey) undersheriff, giving him a place in Sheriff Richard H. Berdnik's Cabinet. Hapatsha was one of the first Circassians in the Sheriff's Office when he took the oath of office 33 years ago,- reports

"I'm very honored and humbled," Hapatsha said as a crush of well-wishers surrounded him after the ceremony at the Passaic County Police Academy. "I love the department. A great bunch of guys. The sheriff gave me a shot, and I'm going to take it, and build on it."

Circassians hail from the Caucacus Mountains region between the Black Sea and Caspian Sea, an area that is controlled by Russia. Passaic County has about 5,000 Circassian residents, making it the largest Circassian enclave in the United States.

Hapatsha said he was the third Circassian to join the the Sheriff's Office, and now there are almost 40. He's had many assignments during his career: corrections officer, police academy instructor, SWAT team member, hostage negotiator.