HOUSTON – The Houston Police Department announced Monday the expansion of its religious accommodations policy so people from religious minority communities may wear articles of faith while on duty.
This move comes almost two months after Harris County Sheriff's Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal was shot and killed during a routine traffic stop in September. Dhaliwal, a Sikh, made history in 2015 when he became the first law enforcement officer in Texas to wear his articles of faith, including a beard and a turban, while on the job.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said the Houston Police Department was the largest in Texas and second- or third-largest in the country to expand its religious accommodations policy.
"This day just didn't happen on its own," Turner said Monday in a press conference. "The work of Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal laid the predicate, the foundation, for this day"
Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said that while the department was already working on expanding its policy before Dhaliwal was killed, his death expedited the process and the policy will now be named after him.
"If you have the heart of a servant and the light of a servant in your soul like Sandeep Dhaliwal had, please come and apply to the Houston Police Department," Acevedo said.
Turner also said it was "about time" that HPD expanded its policy.
"We have spoken a great deal and continue to speak a great deal about the diversity of our community," Turner said. "But diversity doesn't mean much if it's not about being inclusive."
"This is not a gift," he said of the policy change. "It's a duty."
At present, Acevedo said there is at least one member of the Sikh faith going through the hiring process at the Houston Police Department.