Texas’s Harris County Sheriff’s Office Welcomes Sikh Deputies with their Articles of Faith Intact
HOUSTON, TX, USA—On February 6, 2015, one of the largest Sheriff’s office in the nation will make Sikh American History—Sheriff Adrian Garcia and members of Texas’s Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) will 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.
“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,” Jasjit Singh, SALDEF’s Executive Director. “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.”
Deputy Dhaliwal joined the Harris County Sheriff’s Office in 2009 as a detention officer. As his career progressed—he became a patrol deputy in 2012—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, neatly groomed 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, and maintained regular meetings with the Sikh American community. SALDEF would also 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.
Washington 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.