Harris County Sheriff-Elect and Judge Meet with Houston-Area Sikhs
Houston, Texas: December 22, 2008 – On Sunday, December 14 2008 at the request of SALDEF Regional Director and long-time friend, Bobby Singh, Harris County Texas Sheriff-elect Adrian Garcia met with the Sikh American community at the Sikh Center of Houston, in the aftermath of a recent incident where a Sikh family was allegedly harassed by Harris County officers after calling in a burglary.
The meeting allowed the Sikh American community to voice their concerns directly to the Sheriff-elect and was also an opportunity for the community to hear from local officials at a time when concerns and fear of the local police are high. At the meeting, Sheriff-elect Garcia remarked that the behavior of the Sheriff Deputies in this incident would not be tolerated under his administration, which takes effect on January 2, 2009.
At the meeting, the Sheriff-elect was presented with framed copies of SALDEF’s Sikh Americans and the Kirpan, and Common Sikh American Head Covering posters by the congregation, to be displayed in his office as a reminder of the diversity within his community.
During his comments to the over 200 Sikhs, in attendance Sheriff-elect Garcia committed to instituting “high quality diversity training” for all of his officers – the third largest police force in the United States.
“These meetings are part of SALDEF’s continued efforts to provide long-term and meaningful engagement with government officials in cities across the nation,” said SALDEF Regional Director Bobby Singh. “Both the community and government, must take concrete steps to understand one another, and make sure that incidents like this do not happen again. These meetings are just the beginning of a long-term partnership that SALDEF and the Sikh American community will have with the local officials to ensure open communication and to prevent misunderstandings in the future.”
Through SALDEF’s Law Enforcement Partnership Program, SALDEF previously provided law enforcement training to the City of Houston police department. In the new year, SALDEF plans to work with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office to provide a year-long training program to educate the entire force about Sikhs and Sikh Americans.
Earlier this month, in the course of investigating the burglary of a Sikh American home, Harris County police officials made suggestive remarks to the family about Muslims, terrorism and the Mumbai terrorist attacks. When one the officers noticed a family member wearing a kirpan, they pointed a taser gun at her head, and handcuffed multiple family members, including a sixty-year-old grandmother. The only reason for this action was the Sikh family practicing their faith freely in their home.
To read media reports about this incident, click below:
Sikh family accuses deputies of abuse, taunts – Houston Chronicle 12/5/08
Sheriff-elect reaches out to Harris County Sikhs – Houston Chronicle 12/14/08
Garcia, Sikhs to meet – Houston Chronicle 12/12/08
Interview with Tagore Family – Sach Productions 11/27/08