SALDEF Trains Entire DC Police Force on Sikh Religion and Cultural Practices

March 11th, 2008

SALDEF Completes Third Department-Wide Training Campaign

Washington D.C. – March 11, 2008: This Wednesday, March 12th, the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF), the nation’s oldest Sikh American civil rights organization, will conclude a highly successful year-long campaign to train all 3,800 Washington DC Metro Police Department officers on Sikh cultural practices and customs. This is the third such campaign SALDEF has completed with a major law enforcement agency to train their entire uniformed staff.

Rajbir Training MPD Officers

Since March 2007, SALDEF has been training between 75 and 125 law enforcement officers every week on cultural awareness and techniques for better interacting with Sikh Americans. The trainings are intended to foster greater understanding for the cultural diversity in the nation’s capital and also one of its largest cities. “It’s important that police leaders in our community are aware and have a thorough understanding of the diversity of the millions of residents, commuters and over 17 million tourists in Washington DC.” said SALDEF Managing Director Kavneet Singh. “We encourage the Sikh American community to partner with us and reach out to key officials in their local communities to ensure that relationships and connections are developed for greater understanding of who Sikhs are.”

Due to their religiously mandated turbans and beards, Sikh Americans are often mistaken for Arabs, Muslims, or Middle Easterners based solely on their appearance. The Sikh American community has been targeted by hundreds of hate crimes, including the first post-9/11 hate-motivated fatality. Since that event, it has become critical for the community to develop lasting relationships to prepare against a future attack.

The training program is designed to provide law enforcement with an understanding of Sikh cultural practices and provide recommendations on how to appropriately interact with the community in non-emergency, non-crisis situations. The program utilizes a professionally designed interactive presentation, SALDEF’s Training DVD On Common Ground, and other educational publications including our Who are the Sikhs brochure and SALDEF’s pioneering Law Enforcement Reference Card. The training is part of SALDEF’s Law Enforcement Partnership Program which has trained tens of thousands law enforcement officers over the past eight years. In 2007 alone, SALDEF training efforts reached over 65,000 law enforcement officers in cities across the nation including Washington, DC; Columbia, Missouri; Des Moines, IA; Jamestown, NC; Charlestown, WV; Pittsburgh, PA; and all 43,000 Transportation Security Officers across the United States who viewed On Common Ground, as part of their mandated training which was completed this January.

SALDEF conducted the trainings in partnership with the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) and would like to acknowledge and thank the Washington DC Police Department, Chief Cathy Lanier, and Officer Ben Sharpe for their tremendous support during this initiative.

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