Washington Police allows sikh Officer to wear sport turbans
Washington police allows Sikh officers to sport turbans
Ramaninder K Bhatia, TNN | May 18, 2012, 02.38AM IST
Twelve years after battling identity issues following the catastrophic 9/11 attacks in New York when they were routinely mistaken for Muslims and targeted in hate crimes, Sikhs in America now have a reason to celebrate their efforts. Washington DC's Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), the seventh largest police force in the US, declared on Wednesday that it would allow Sikh police officers to keep beard and tie turban as part of the uniform.
Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF),a Sikh advocacy group, which actively pursued the issue with the DC force, reported on its website that with this order, the MPD has become "the first major police department in the US to explicitly and voluntarily allow Sikh Americans to serve as full-time, uniformed police officers while keeping their articles of faith."
Reportedly, police departments in the US routinely ban beards for safety reasons, while helmets are mandatory for handling situations such as riots. Newspapers in the US, reporting the event, quoted police officers saying that if need be, Sikh officers could wear smaller turbans in situations which required a helmet. The turbans would be of the matching blue colour of the department issued caps, with the police badge pinned on them.
MPD chief Cathy Lanier told the media at the event in the police headquarters, "I am proud of this new policy which reflects the values of the MPD. Making it clear that Sikh Americans may protect the nation's capital and may serve their community as full-time officers reflects the promise we made to have a police force that serves as a model for those around the world. It is important that all those who live in, work in, and visit the district see our values and commitment to the community in our officers."
"Nine years ago, Sikh Americans had to sue to become traffic enforcement officers. Today, Washington DC is inviting all Sikh Americans to become full-time, full-fledged police officers," said Jasjit Singh, executive director of SALDEF. "Our articles of faith are signs of our commitment to equality and public service - the same values held by every law enforcement officer, the same values represented by the MPD uniform."
SALDEF also reported that the new policy was the result of an eight-year partnership between MPD and SALDEF. "Since 2004, over 4,000 MPD officers have participated in cultural awareness training through SALDEF's Law Enforcement Partnership Program. Due to this new policy, Sikh Americans have an equal opportunity to serve in Washington DC," said Jasjit Singh.
International news agencies reported that the decision to bring the change had been taken in December but was announced only on Wednesday. The news reports also said that the force, presently had only one Sikh officer who was expected to pass out of police academy in August.
Last edited by R. M. Dixit; 19-05-2012 at 08:17 AM.