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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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California Becomes the first US State to allow Gender-neutral Birth Certificates

The so-called "nonbinary" gender means not exclusively male or female or a combination of two or more "genders."

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The law, published on the government official website, also made it easier for people to change their gender identity on official documents. Pixabay

California, October 17, 2017 : California Governor Jerry Brown has signed a state senate bill, allowing a gender-neutral marker on birth certificates and driver’s licenses starting from 2019.

California thus became the first state in the US to allow a “nonbinary” gender to be marked on birth certificates, Xinhua news agency reported.

The so-called “nonbinary” gender means not exclusively male or female or a combination of two or more “genders.”

According to the Gender Recognition Act approved on Sunday, California will offer a gender-neutral option on state documents for those who are transgender, intersex and others who are not identified as male or female.

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The law, published on the government official website, also made it easier for people to change their gender identity on official documents.

“Existing law authorises a person who was born in this state and who has undergone clinically appropriate treatment for the purpose of gender transition to obtain a new birth certificate from the State Registrar,” the bill read.

The Golden State is now also the second state in the US to allow residents to be identified by a gender marker other than “F” or “M” on their driver’s license.

Oregon and the District of Columbia had earlier issued the gender-neutral option on their driver’s licenses.

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Chennai Police Department Makes 19 Year Old Boy with Down Syndrome Police Officer for a Day

Sometimes from a small seed, greatness grows. And despite all odds, the 19-year-old Stevin is a testament to this

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'Sub Inspector' Stevin Mathew on patrol. The Hindu

Chennai, September 28, 2017 : Throughout his childhood, Stevin had just one, very simple wish.

He had longed to be a police officer. His parents claim Stevin grew up uttering “I am police, I am police” as he saw his favorite actors perform the role of a uniform-clad officer in multiple films.

Sadly though, being born with a disability meant that this wish was nothing short of a fantasy.

Doctors had long identified that a young Stevin Mathew was suffering from Down syndrome, a genetic disorder of chromosome 21 that causes developmental and intellectual delays. While the condition can be supervised with treatment, it cannot be completely cured.

For many children, being born with special conditions often means giving up on their dreams. However, we increasingly forget why they are called ‘special’ in the very first place.

Stevin Mathew’s story has been special, too.

Originally hailing from Chennai, the family is currently settled in Qatar. But it was only during a recent trip to Chennai that Stevin’s father Rajeev Thomas approached the commissioner of Chennai police, making a special request to allow his son to wear the prestigious khaki uniform for a day.

ALSO READ How Children with special needs found place in Mumbai Classrooms!

In a gesture of goodwill, Commissioner A.K. Vishwanathan agreed to help young Stevin realize his dream of becoming a police officer. Consequently, Chennai’s Assistant Commissioner Vincent Jayaraj and Inspector Suryalingam visited Stevin at his Chennai dwelling and made the fundamental arrangements for action.

A customized uniform with two stars glittering on the shoulder badge was stitched for Stevin, keeping all necessary details in mind.

“He was fascinated by the police after watching his favorite stars Suresh Gopi, Vijay, and others. He always wanted to become a police officer. So I decided to write a mail to the commissioner when we came to Chennai for a vacation”
                                          – Rajeev Thomas, Stevin’s father 

Welcomed with bouquets at the Ashok Nagar police station, the 19-year sub-inspector assumed position for an hour and was also given his own desk and briefed about the tasks undertaken for crime prevention in order completely experience an officer’s life.

Armed with a walkie-talkie and an agenda, Stevin attended phone calls and also set out on patrol duty in a police jeep along with two other constables.

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Stevin tending to his duties as a sub-inspector. Deccan Chronicle

A bright 19-year old boy, Stevin is a Diploma-holder in Computer Applications and has never let circumstances decide the course of his life.

Stevin’s parents, Rajeev and Ciby Mathew run a special school for children called HOPE Qatar in Doha and believe that special children should be given equal opportunities to help include them into the mainstream society.

Commissioner A.K. Vishwanathan and the Chennai Police department must also be acknowledged for setting an example and motivating children to dream despite all hardships.

Sometimes from a small seed, greatness grows. And despite all odds, the 19-year-old Stevin is a testament to this.

 

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Actress Aparna Sen to attend 8th Chicago South Asian Film Festival

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Legendary Indian film actor and Padma Shri awardee Aparna Sen will be in Chicago this week. She is synonymous with bringing Bengali cinema closer to the masses not just in India but globally too finds an artistic proximity to Chicago. She says that the architecture of the city reminds her of a studio set from a movie.

Currently in the US, Sen has been having a very hectic schedule as her latest directorial venture, Sonata, is all set to be screened at film festivals in the US.

Amidst her busy schedule Aparna Sen takes out some time to talk to
Hi India! about her creative pursuits, the scope of regional Indian cinema in the US and of course about her love for museums and eateries in Chicago

“I have been to Chicago twice before this, and I’ve enjoyed the city hugely both times. I particularly like the downtown area with its interesting art deco architecture, its museums and eateries.” – Aparna Sen

Sen who has also directed critically acclaimed films such as 36 Chowringee Lane, that won her Best Director Award at the Indian National Film Awards is looking forward to the screening of her recent directorial film Sonata in America

Aparna Sen will be in the city to attend the 8th edition of Chicago South Asian Film Festival and is appreciative of the interest alternate Indian films have been creating in the US.

(IANS)