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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

Logo of Modesto Police Department. Image source:
  • 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 report.

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

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, 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.

Next Story

Huge Fire In California Probably Due To Climate Change: Experts

The California summit will look at ways to build consensus and avoid worst-case scenarios. Protesters who have gathered in San Francisco, however, say it is not enough.

Climate Change Fuels California Fires. Flickr

California has experienced record heat waves and catastrophic fires in recent years, and climate experts say it is likely to get worse.

A report released Aug. 27 by the state of California, the fourth in a series of assessments, puts the blame squarely on climate change.

California Gov. Jerry Brown is hosting an international summit, beginning Wednesday, in San Francisco to search for solutions.

The worst fires in California’s history came this year and last, with the 2018 Mendocino Complex Fire scorching 186,000 hectares. Parts of northern California are still burning. The largest of the fires, in Shasta County, has burned more than 20,000 hectares and is only 5 percent contained.

Climate research

The California Climate Change Assessment summarizes current climate research and finds a litany of problems caused by greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, which is emitted by the use of fossil fuels such as coal and oil.

If nothing or little is done, the reports say to expect temperature rises of 3 to 5 degrees Celsius (5.6 to 8.8 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100; a two-thirds decline in water supplies from the mountain snow pack by 2050; a nearly 80 percent increase in the area scorched by fires by the end of the century; and up to two-thirds of Southern California beaches eroding in the same time frame.

From flooding to a strained electrical grid and premature deaths and illnesses, the list is extensive.

“I think we’ve reached the point where the impacts of climate change are no longer subtle,” said Michael Mann, who directs the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University.

Mann was not involved in the study, but said he thinks its finding are, if anything, conservative.

“We are literally seeing them play out in real time in the form of record heat waves, floods, droughts and wildfires,” he said.


A firefighter sprays the smoldering remains of a vehicle on Interstate 5 as the Delta Fire burns in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, VOA


The Trump administration, however, has pledged to overturn emissions curbs and has promised to withdraw from the 2015 Paris climate agreement, an accord of nearly 200 countries that requires national targets for emission cuts but which lacks enforcement powers.

President Donald Trump said the pact is ineffective and kills jobs. Climate expertssay something must be done to slow the climate shifts that are underway.

“A warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture, so there’s the potential for greater rainfall events, worse flooding,” Mann said. “A warmer atmosphere also dries out the soils, causing drought.”

He added, “You’re moving the probability curve, and at the tail of the curve are the extreme weather events.”

Health effects of climate change

Epidemiologists are tracking health effects of the changes, from more pollutants emitted by fires to warming in the cities, said epidemiologist Rupa Basu of the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. Basu was a contributing author to California’s climate assessment.

“There’s a larger population living in urban areas, and more importantly, a larger vulnerable population living in urban areas,” said Basu, which she said become “urban heat islands” as temperatures rise. The report says that many rural communities, and Native Americans and other minorities, are disproportionately affected.


In this Sept. 5, 2018, photo released by the U.S. Forest Service, a truck drives next to the Delta Fire burning on Interstate 5 near Shasta-Trinity National Forest, Calif. VOA


Researchers are seeing more emergencies and deaths among the very young, elderly and poor. Analysts compare hospital and emergency room visits, infant birth weights, death and illness rates to temperature and relative humidity, researcher Xiangmei Wu said.

On a global level, climate change can increase the ferocity of tropical storms because of changes to the jet stream that determine weather patterns, although hurricanes are not an issue in California.

Mann, of the Earth System Science Center, said one of most destructive storms in U.S. history, Hurricane Harvey on the Gulf Coast, released huge amounts of rainfall as it stalled in its path over Houston in 2017. He said, “You’re moving that probability curve over” on the graph of weather patterns, “and at the tail of the curve are the extreme warm events.”


Gov. Jerry Brown discusses the goals of the global climate summit he is hosting in San Francisco and legislation he signed directing California to phase out fossil fuels for electricity by 2045 during an interview with The Associated Press. VOA


Extreme weather events

Dan Cayan, a researcher at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and a coordinating lead author of the California report, said climate change exaggerates natural cycles such as El Nino, the periodic warming of equatorial oceans that leads to storms in the Pacific. He said more extreme weather events may well be on their way.

“State and local governments and other players are taking this seriously. And I think that trend will grow as climate change symptoms continue to bubble up,” Cayan said, adding that he is cautiously optimistic that the world can mitigate the worst effects of the changes.

Gov. Brown, who is hosting the three-day summit that ends Friday, has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in his state to 40 percent below 1990 levels.

Monday, Brown signed a bill requiring California to obtain all of its electricity from clean energy sources by 2045.

Brown is a key figure in a coalition of local and regional governments that have committed to achieving the Paris accord’s limiting of global warming in this century to 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, whether or not the United States remains in the agreement.

The Delta Fire burns in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. VOA

The California summit will look at ways to build consensus and avoid worst-case scenarios.

Also Read: Smoke From Wildfire Makes Weather in West US Worse

Protesters who have gathered in San Francisco, however, say it is not enough.

“There have been many climate summits with a lot of rhetoric but not enough commitment,” activist May Boeve told The Associated Press. She was one of thousands who marched through San Francisco last Saturday, calling for a transition to renewable energy sources and protections for workers and minority groups as the world braces for dramatic changes to its weather.