USA: In California, Modesto Police Department hires First Sikh officer

Varinder Khun Khun, an Indian by origin has lived in Ceres for 10 years

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Logo of Modesto Police Department. Image source: www.modestogov.com
  • Khun Khun represents the Sikh community which originated in Punjab around the 15th century in the Indian subcontinent
  • Khun Khun, an Indian by descent, has lived in Ceres for the last 10 years
  • the Police Chief Galen Carroll said he hopes Khun Khun to be “the trailblazer that may bring more Sikh officers who are interested in police

It is the first for the community as Modesto Police Department has announced a Sikh officer this Tuesday afternoon, June 14. Along with two others, Varinder Khun Khun graduated from the Napa Police Academy on June 11. His name is placed as an officer among the other 33 hired this year by the department.

“I’ve never seen police officers wearing a turban before; I didn’t know if I would get a chance (to be a police officer) … I am thankful for MPD giving me the opportunity,” said Khun Khun before he was sworn in at 1010 Tenth Street in Modesto, said the modbee.com report.

Varinder Khun Khun was sworn in Tuesday, June 14, becoming Modesto's first Sikh officer. Image source: India.com
Varinder Khun Khun was sworn in Tuesday, June 14, becoming Modesto’s first Sikh officer. Image source: India.com

Khun Khun, an Indian by descent, has lived in Ceres for the last 10 years. His happiness knows no bounds as he repeatedly expresses he had never thought he would be allowed to practice his religion through the mandatory turban and beard besides being an officer.

It comes as a new sign of a tolerant, peaceful co-existence of communities that Khun Khun has been given the freedom to wear his religious clothing since it is well know that the Modesto Police Department, in its grooming policy makes it compulsory for officers to be clean shaven and to keep moustache only till the edge of the lip.

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According to modbee.com, the Police Chief Galen Carroll said he hopes Khun Khun to be “the trailblazer that may bring more Sikh officers and other people who are interested that think they can’t be officers.”

Khun Khun had approached Carroll a year ago regarding his query whether he can join the force and be freely permitted to practice his religious beliefs.

“I told him that that didn’t matter, that we would make accommodations for his religious beliefs and that, more importantly, we were looking for people with high character standards and he would be an addition to the Police Department as a segment of the community that is not represented in the Police Department,” Carroll had said in reply to Khun Khun.

Surprisingly, it is not known widely that in 2012, Gov. Jerry Brown had signed a law, the California’s Fair Employment Act which called for protection against discrimination for religious dress and grooming practices.

Further, in April, three U.S. Army enlistees had won permission for wearing beards and turbans after they filed federal lawsuits. The lawsuits were to seek the Pentagon’s accommodation to those wearing beards for religious purposes, according to The Associated Press (AP).

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Khun Khun represents the Sikh community which originated in Punjab around the 15th century in the Indian subcontinent. The faith has been practised in the US for about 100 years now, as recorded by the Bee archives. The Central Valley accounts for the largest Sikh population in the country.

Others who were sworn in for various posts in the department on Tuesday were:

▪ Jared Silva, from the Napa Police Academy. The son of Chief Probation Officer Jill Silva, he graduated magna cum laude from Fresno State University.

▪ Daniel Hammer, from the Napa Police Academy, where he was awarded the top academic award. He has also served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps.

▪ James Shackleford, who joined the Modesto Police Department as a lateral-transfer police officer. He has previously worked at the Stanislaus County and Calaveras County sheriff’s departments.

▪ Aaron Tait was promoted to lieutenant. He has worked for the Modesto Police Department since 1998. He has also supervised the Stanislaus County Auto Theft Task Force, Crime Reduction Team and the Traffic Unit, among others.

▪ Darline Kasper joined the Modesto Police Department as a clerk. She began as a volunteer in the Investigations Division.

▪ Jillane Blakeley joined the Modesto Police Department as a clerk. She previously worked for the Stanislaus Foundation for Medical Care for 19 years.

-prepared by Maariyah Siddiquee, an intern at NewsGram. Twitter: @MaariyahSid

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  • Paras Vashisth

    ‘The trailblazer’ – means hopes a lot !!
    Huge opportunity and he should be work it on very willingly.