Harris County, Texas Makes Sikh American History!

January 3rd, 2015

Harris County Sheriff's Office Welcomes Sikh American Deputies
Houston, TX / Washington, DC— In February 2015,  one of the largest Sheriff’s offices in the nation made history by welcoming welcome the first observant Sikh American deputy, Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal, to serve while keeping his Sikh articles of faith, including his dastaar (turban) and beard. This milestone in Sikh American History was made possible in part by Sheriff Adrian Garcia and members of Texas’s Harris County Sheriff’s Office, which includes the city of Houston.

“We commend Sheriff Adrian Garcia and the Harris County Sheriff’s Office for their leadership, and in recognizing that Sikh Americans and residents of Harris County should have the opportunity to serve their community, as we have done throughout our 125 year history in the United States,” said SALDEF Executive Director Jasjit Singh. “With this policy, one of the largest sheriff’s offices in the country has affirmed that a person does not have to choose between their faith and a career of service.”

201505LEPPBanner4Deputy Dhaliwal joined the Harris County Sheriff’s Office in 2009 as a detention officer. As his career progressed— he also had a growing desire to adopt the Sikh articles of faith. In 2014, Sheriff Garcia allowed for exceptions to the HCSO’s uniform policy to allow for accommodation of religious articles  under the dress code if it does not interfere with the employee’s duty. Accordingly, Sikh employees like Deputy Dhaliwal and prospective deputies can apply to wear turbans, beards, and other articles of faith.

Under Sheriff Garcia’s leadership, the HCSO has expanded diversity training by leveraging SALDEF’s Law Enforcement Partnership Program (LEPP) materials, improved communication with the public through regular meetings with faith leaders, created a Citizen Advisory Counsel, maintained regular meetings with the Sikh American community. SALDEF would like to recognize the leadership of Regional Director Bobby Singh, who is based in the Houston area, and has played a pivotal role in building community ties with the HCSO for more than half a decade.

“We’ll soon be turning a new chapter in the history of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office. One of our very own HCSO family members will be adding a new dimension to his uniform. He’ll be allowed to wear his turban,” announced Sheriff Adrian Garcia. “By making these religious accommodations we will ensure that HCSO reflects the community we serve, one of the most culturally rich and diverse communities in America,” he added.

mpd bannerWashington Metropolitan Police Department became the first major police department in the United States to explicitly and voluntarily allow Sikh Americans to serve as full-time, uniformed police officers while keeping their articles of faith in May 2012, a result of SALDEF’s relationship through its Law Enforcement Partnership Program. Subsequently, California’s Riverside police department  was the first police department in California, and second in the nation, to proactively amend their uniform guidance. “We believe that this announcement will inspire other local law enforcement units from around the country to follow in Harris County’s footsteps,” said Jasjit Singh, Executive Director, SALDEF.

Support the Law Enforcement Partnership Program today and congratulate Deputy Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal on Facebook or via Twitter with #SikhsWhoServe.

References:

Past MPD announcement (Washington D.C.) 

Past Riverside, California announcement

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