MONROVIA (CBSLA) – A Muslim woman suspected of committing crimes in Monrovia had a message for the police officers who confronted and questioned her, and her response isn’t what most people would expect.

For Esma Ali, she said she had to thank the Monrovia police officers.

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“What made me come here is because when it was all done, they really felt bad, and they empathized with me as if I were their sister,” Ali said.

Nearly 40 people gathered at the Monrovia police station to help Ali say thank you.

“They’re like, ‘I’m really sorry this is happening to you.’ When they said that I said, ‘You know they need to be honored for what they did,” she said.

Ali said she was wearing her hijab while walking in her old neighborhood near Foothill Boulevard around noon on Sept. 10. That’s when a squad car stopped her and said someone claimed she had been breaking into cars and stealing mail.

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Ali said officers questioned her with dignity.

“Human-to-human empathy, that’s what they connected with their eyes,” she said.

In other situations with neighbors or strangers, Ali said, that’s not always the case.

“It’s like, ‘What did I do?’ I’m sorry I’m wearing a hijab,” she said.

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“We’re expected to perform professional and treat every member of this community as if they were a member of our family,” Chief Alan Sanvictores said.