A Sikh police officer has become the first deputy constable to be allowed to wear a turban in Harris County, Texas.
The Indian-American officer, Amrit Singh, who proudly sports a turban and beard while serving in Harris County, Texas, was sworn in as deputy constable in January.
“A historic day as we swear in Deputy Constable Amrit Singh—the first Sikh deputy Constable ever in Harris County,” said Constable Alan Rosen, Singh’s superior, in a Twitter message. “We’ve also now adopted a new policy which specifically allows our deputy constables to wear articles of faith in uniform.”
Sikhism is a monotheistic religion that originated in the Punjab region of India in the 15th century. Observant Sikhs wear turbans as one of their five articles of faith. Service to others is a key tenet of Sikhism.
“As a man of the Jewish faith, I know how it feels to be religiously targeted and how important it is to teach inclusion,” Rosen said during the swearing-in ceremony in the presence of representatives from the county’s seven other constable precincts. “To me, wearing a yarmulke or … wearing a turban really doesn’t impact the quality of work of what he’s going to do. It should have zero impact on public safety or what job we do. Are you going to care if the person showing up to your door to help save you has a turban or yarmulke?”
“I didn’t want to give up my religion to serve. And I knew if I was that passionate about it, there would be some leader out there who would feel the same way.”
Harris County made national headlines in 2015 when a Sikh deputy in its sheriff’s department successfully fought for the right to wear his turban and beard on duty. That deputy, Sandeep Dhaliwal, was shot and killed in 2019 by a man he pulled over during a routine traffic stop. At the time of his murder, “just a few dozen law enforcement agencies across the United States—and the U.S. Army—had uniform policies with religious accommodations allowing Sikhs to serve in accordance with their faith,” according to the Houston Chronicle.
Dhaliwal’s death prompted the Houston Police Department to change its uniform policy in 2019 to allow Sikhs to wear their articles of faith. “[N]o one should ever choose between their faith or their career … articles of faith pose no barrier to service,” Nikki Singh, policy and advocacy manager of the Sikh Coalition, told CNN.
The latest Sikh to join the ranks of observant peace officers wanted to join law enforcement since he was a child out of a desire to protect others. But first, he had to find a police organization that respected his faith.
“I didn’t want to give up my religion to serve,” Singh told the Houston Chronicle. “And I knew if I was that passionate about it, there would be some leader out there who would feel the same way.”
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