The Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund says [D.C. Police Chief Cathy] Lanier will announce an executive order Wednesday that eases uniform and appearance rules for Sikhs. Observant Sikhs generally wear turbans and do not cut their hair, and a policy change will permit them to maintain their appearance.
Despite the long history of Sikhs serving in military and law enforcement around the world, such an accommodation is welcome but somewhat rare news in the United States. In other jurisdictions, observant Sikhs are not permitted to serve as police officers if they maintain their religious articles of faith, particularly uncut hair/beard and the turban, even when these departments do not incur any undue hardship or burden in accommodating the Sikhs’ religious articles into their police uniform.
This news is a significant development for Sikhs in the United States. While organizations such as the NYPD only allow observant Sikhs to serve in limited capacity (as traffic officers, and litigation was required to even reach that extent), the Metropolitan Police Department in D.C. is voluntarily inviting Sikhs to serve as full police officers. There are no other jurisdictions that have established policy to allow Sikhs to serve on such an equal footing and without discrimination. Accordingly, this event really is a precedent for the country.
Click here for the announcement from SALDEF, which provides additional details.