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Turbaned Sikhs to serve in Washington police

Washington: Sikh police officers would soon be seen in operation in the American capital, Washington, in their turbans and other articles of faith.

The American city gave the green light for the Sikh police officers to sport turbans and beards, making it the first major US city to accommodate the religious articles of faith.

The announcement was made by the Washington Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) chief Cathy Lanier who said that 4,000 officers had gone through cultural training to sanitise them to the Sikh faith. Lanier said the first Sikh-American police officers with turbans and beards were expected to join the force in August.

Sikhs are required by their faith to wear turban, sport beard and carry a ceremonial knife and these have often come in conflict with codes in Western nations where police and armymen are required to be clean shaven.

The US Army since 2010 have made exceptions for Sikh soldiers to serve with their articles of faith. Turbaned Sikhs are already serving in Canada and Britain.

Announcing the new uniform policy, the Washington police chief said, "Sikh Americans may protect the Nation`s Capital and may serve their community as full-time officers. This reflects the promise we made to have a police force that serves as a model for those around the world. It is important that all those who live in, work in, and visit the District see our values and commitment to the community in our officers."

"Nine years ago, Sikh Americans had to sue to become traffic enforcement officers. Today, the Nation`s Capital is inviting all Sikh Americans to become full-time, full-fledged police officers," said Jasjit Singh, executive director of the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF).

"Our articles of faith are signs of our commitment to equality and public service the same values held by every law enforcement officer, the same values represented by the MPD uniform," he said.

Welcoming the move, Sikh community leaders hoped that this would pave the way for other American cities to follow suit and eventually they could be recruited in large numbers in the US Army. "We encourage Sikh Americans to pursue careers with MPD, the first major police department to allow Sikh Americans to serve and protect their neighbors as full-time officers while maintaining their religious identity," Singh said.

Though the American capital has allowed Sikh police officers to wear turbans, the New York city, which has the large Sikh community still maintains a ban on turbans.

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