UPDATE: Washington, DC, Becomes First Major City in US to Allow Full-Time Sikh American Police Officers
SALDEF’s Eight Year Partnership with MPD Results in Uniform Policy Change
Today the seventh largest police force in the nation 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.
“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,” said Chief Cathy Lanier of the Washington Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) in an event at police headquarters.
“Nine years ago, Sikh Americans had to sue to become traffic enforcement officers. Today, the Nation’s Capital 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.”
Under the new uniform guidelines, Sikh American police officers can maintain their articles of faith while on duty, including their turbans and beards. The guidelines remove barriers to employment often faced by Sikh Americans in other public safety positions. Washington, DC, is now the largest city in the United States in which Sikh Americans can become full-time uniformed police officers, joining their counterparts across the world.
“We are pleased to partner with MPD as they continue to play a leading role in developing best practices for the law enforcement community”, said Mr. Singh. “Chief Lanier and MPD recognize the importance of breaking down barriers to service. This first of a kind guidance by one of the nation’s premier law enforcement agencies serves as a model for other agencies across the country.”
The policy is 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 the Nation’s Capital,” said Mr. Singh. “We encourage Sikh Americans to pursue careers with MPD, the first major police department to allow Sikh Americans to serve and protect their neighbors as full-time officers while maintaining their religious identity.”
UPDATE ( 5/25/12):
National and International Coverage of Historic Announcement Reaches Millions
Last week, Washington Metro Police Department (MPD), became the nation’s 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. This historic change was the result of SALDEF’s eight-year partnership with MPD.
The announcement was welcomed by Sikhs throughout America and the world as a step forward for the community. National and international media coverage of the announcement resulted in hundreds of news stories and blog posts discussing topics ranging from Sikh theology to the history of Sikhs in law enforcement capacities around the world.
Coverage of the Event:
LISTEN: MPD: Turbans Approved For Police Force (National Public Radio)
LISTEN: DC Police Allow Sikh Officers To Wear Beards And Turbans (CBS Radio)
WATCH: Press Conference Recording (SALDEF)
DC police: Sikh officers can wear beards, turbans (Wall Street Journal / Associated Press)
Sikhs can now serve on D.C.’s police force (National Post / AFP)
“Ground breaking policy changes like this open employment opportunities for our community and can positively shape the image of Sikhs in America as we are seen protecting our neighbors.” said Jasjit Singh, SALDEF Executive Director. “We congratulate the entire community on this victory and encourage Sikh Americans to take full advantage of this opportunity.”
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