Appeal after Sandeep Dhaliwal, a Texas deputy who was one of the first to wear a turban and long beard, was killed in a traffic stop
Nearly 100 Sikh police officers and veterans have called on law enforcement associations to create formal policies to allow officers to wear articles of faith. The appeal, in the form of a letter, came in the wake of the murder of a Sikh-American sheriffs deputy near Houston, Texas.
Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal, a Harris county sheriffs deputy, was ambushed, shot and killed during a seemingly routine traffic stop last week. He was one of the first Sikh American police officers in the country to wear a turban and long beard, both traditional signs of faith for Sikhs. His funeral is Wednesday, the same day the letter went out.
Dhaliwal was a trailblazer, said Amrith Kaur, legal director of the Sikh Coalition, which helped organize the letter. Dhaliwal had such a legacy for wanting to serve the people of Harris county, and wanting to do that while also wanting to practice his faith, he added.
Dhaliwal was 42 years old and worked for the sheriffs department for 10 years. He sold a business and changed careers to join the department, and was promoted from a detention officer in 2015. Dhaliwal was a father of three children.
Police arrested a suspect in Dhaliwals murder last week. Robert Solis, 47, was charged with capital murder. Police have not released a motive for the murder.
In recent years, some wings of the military and police departments in major cities have moved to provide explicit policies for religious minorities to display articles of faith. For Sikhs, the most visible articles are a turban and uncut hair. Observant Sikhs also wear a small wooden comb, cotton undershorts, a steel bracelet and a small knife called a Kirpan.
In spite of recent accommodations, the Sikh Coalition said only 25 of the nations 15,400 police departments have specific policies on articles of faith. The US Air Force first allowed a Sikh man to wear a turban this year. There are 500,000 Sikhs in the United States, and 25 million worldwide. Service is considered an essential tenet of the Sikh religion.
We believe that no Sikh should have to face the impossible decision of choosing between their faith and public service, the letter said. Deputy Dhaliwals service has shown that Sikhs have proven their mettle and desire to serve on the front lines of law enforcement while maintaining their religious articles of faith and have done so with distinction and the respect of their communities.
We hope that with the legacy of Deputy Dhaliwal in mind, we honor his sacrifice to our nation by ensuring that more Sikhs are permitted to serve in law enforcement with their religious articles of faith intact.
The letter was sent to governing bodies of police organizations, such as the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the National Sheriffs Association.