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Modesto Police department hires first Sikh Police Officer



MODESTO, Calif. (Diya TV) — After his swearing in Tuesday, Varinder Khun Khun became the first Sikh police officer in the history of the Modesto police department.

He is one of 33 officers to be hired by the department this year. Khun Khun has lived in the Modesto-area for the past ten years, migrating from India to the Bay Area then finally to California’s 18th largest city.

He said he wanted to be a police officer, but was unsure of it he would be allowed to wear his turban and keep his beard, in accordance with Sikh customs. Modesto police department policy requires officers to be clean-shaven, allowing them to grow mustaches that extend to the edge of the lip.

“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,” Khun Khun said.

He approached police chief Galen Carroll a year ago about applying for the job, and mentioned the requirement to be allowed his turban and facial hair.

“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 said. “You want to have a police department that mirrors the community as much as possible. When you call an officer and nobody looks like you … you don’t feel like they can understand you or relate to you, so it is important to have that so you build stronger ties with the community.”

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law in 2012 that added protection from discrimination in the instances of religious dress and grooming practices to California’s Fair Employment Act. Khun Khun said he wouldn’t have taken the job if he were required to shave or not allowed to wear his turban.

The Central Valley houses the largest Sikh community in the country, and chief Carroll said he hopes Khun Khun will be “the trailblazer that may bring more Sikh officers and other people who are interested that think they can’t be officers.”

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