“As a Law Enforcement Officer, our fundamental duty is to serve mankind”
Those few words make up the first line of the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics. Watching the news, this morning, I mourned the death of Harris County Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal, who like many police officers and cadets (like me) recited those words to our community.
Deputy Dhaliwal, a ten-year veteran officer, was a father, a brother, a son, a true hero to his community. However, a significant part of his identity was his religion: Sikhism. He became the first Sikh Deputy after he felt the strong need to bridge the gap between his community and law enforcement. Dhaliwal made national headlines when he was granted permission to wear a turban and beard as part of his uniform in one of America’s largest sheriff’s offices. He sold his business and the comfort of his home to ultimately sacrificing his life in his line of duty.
Deputy made a difference in light of events that had happened within the Sikh community in the past. After 9/11 hate crimes targeted Sikh people, and law enforcement had lost respect and trust from the Sikh community. Dhaliwal had noticed this and felt that it was important that people understood his faith, while at the same time, he started to patch up differences between Sikhs and law enforcement. In 2015, he said,
“As a Sikh American, I felt the need to represent the Sikh community in law enforcement. Serving in the police force is natural to us, as Sikhs value service.”
The United States has and will be a country that accepts all regardless of the color of their skin, sexual orientation, economic status, or faith. However, there continues to be a niche group of people who find it difficult to accept change. As a society, we must look to people like Deputy Dhaliwal who took the initiative of change in his own hands. By acknowledging the differences in both communities, Dhaliwal made it his mission to reconcile both groups by joining law enforcement in 2009. After becoming a sworn officer, the HCSO took a monumental step towards acceptance by allowing Dhaliwal to wear all his religious articles. This change eventually inspired other law enforcement agencies to make religious accommodations to their employees as well including the New York Police Department, Riverside Police Department, and even recently the United States Army. Small steps from citizens like Deputy Dhaliwal, instigate diversity and acceptance throughout the United States.
Can we apply this same idea of change to issues surrounding gun violence? Today, the only people who should rightfully be holding a gun are being shot dead by those who should have never had a weapon in the first place. Straight-up banning guns is not the solution. It would cause an uproar, politically, and socially. For instance, we can use a commonly used analogy: To reduce traffic collisions, we did not just ban all cars to solve the problem, but we instead introduced seat belts to help reduce the fatalities. So, what is the seat belt to gun violence? Like, Deputy Dhaliwal, we need to find a middle ground for both oppositions. Here are just some solutions that I will list and many candidates today are also hoping to implement. First, we need universal background checks, especially the majority of private sales of guns. Secondly, we must raise the national minimum age of buying a gun up to 21 to keep more arms out of the teenagers’ hands. Furthermore, implementing a one week wait period for all gun sales to reduce rash suicides. Finally, we must increase taxes on gun manufacturers to discourage industries from producing mass gun sales. This is a middle ground that we can implement. We are executing “seat belt” solutions without angering far-right politicians who support the second amendment.
Change is something that cannot happen overnight. Deputy did not expect relations to be solved right away, but after 5–7 years, the HCSO saw applications from the Sikh population pour in. Looking at heroes like Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal, who died protecting his neighborhood, who died because someone had a gun to kill, left a legacy of change in all aspects of society. We must take events like this to our head and heart, not like another media story. People who want positive growth should and will not be killed by the ill-judged who misuse their rights to a weapon.
To Deputy Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal: Thank you, sir, for being an inspiration to all. For the conservation and pride in your faith. And for your continued service to the people around you. You will not be forgotten. Rest in Peace. UNITED WE GOFORTH