American Turban

It may take a lawsuit for the NYPD to allow Sikhs to serve freely

Jasjit Singh Jaggi serves as a member of the NYPD with his articles of faith intact, after winning his religious accommodation case in 2004. As a result of the decision, the NYPD allowed him to serve only as a traffic officer. (source: New York City Commission on Human Rights)

Jasjit Singh Jaggi serves as a member of the NYPD with his articles of faith intact, after winning his religious accommodation case in 2004. As a result of the decision, the NYPD allowed him to serve only as a traffic officer. (source: New York City Commission on Human Rights)

“There is no reason why the NYPD police officers can’t wear a turban and beard and do their job,”  said [New York Assemblyman Dave Weprin] mentioning in particular that Sikhs’ beards [prevent] the use of gas masks is not true. “Sikhs can tie up their beards in a crop cut,” he said.

…“They are not being as receptive to people that don’t look like them,” he said.

— In the Gotham Gazette, New York Assemblyman Dave Weprin discusses the campaign (supported by him and New York city Comptroller John Liu) to have the New York Police Department allow observant Sikhs to serve with their articles of faith — specifically uncut hair and the turban — intact.

In May, it was announced that the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, DC, will allow Sikhs to serve with the turban and beard. While that accommodation was achieved as a result of a collaborative process between the police department and the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF), the NYPD does not appear so willing. According to the Sikh Coalition, the organization taking up the NYPD issue, Director of Programs Amardeep Singh thinks resolution will come through litigation:

“If we can’t get the NYPD to change, we will identify those who wear turbans and keep filing lawsuits,” he said.

Singh explained that the Coalition is looking for a Sikh applicant who would like to join the police department but is unwilling to give up the right to wear a turban. Singh said he expects the department to make a decision when the department is exposed in a lawsuit after being forced to reject a turban-wearing applicant.

Coincidentally, a lawsuit was required to convince New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) to stop discriminating against Sikh and Muslim employees as well.

Read more in the Gotham Gazette about the efforts to bring about change in the NYPD’s dress code.

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