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Entrepreneur, Deputy, Proud Sikh: Who Was US Cop Sandeep Dhaliwal?

Dhaliwal was gunned down while conducting a mid-day traffic stop in northwest of Houston on Friday.

Updated
World
3 min read

Video Editor: Ashutosh Bhardwaj

“Dhaliwal put the Sikh imperative of selfless service on display for all and touched a nation with his example,” read one of the condolence messages after the news of Deputy Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal’s death broke out.

Dhaliwal was gunned down while conducting a mid-day traffic stop in the northwest of Houston on Friday, 29 September. He is survived by his wife, three children, his father and sisters.

Since the fatal shooting and death of the veteran, people from Texas and the rest of the country have expressed their condolences to Dhaliwal’s family. Friends, colleagues and members of the community in Houston that Dhaliwal was a part of shared their memories of him.

From Entrepreneur to Deputy

Dhaliwal's father was a police officer in India before he moved to the United States, taking his family with him. Prior to his job with the force, Dhaliwal owned a truck business which was reportedly quite 'lucrative'.

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In his 20s, Dhaliwal was inspired to join the force when he heard that the Harris County Sheriff's office was looking for a Sikh to join the force. Even though it meant a huge pay cut, he took the opportunity, sold his business and became a civilian detention officer, CNN reported.

In doing so, he became the first Indian-American police officer in Texas. Over time, he earned his peace officer’s license, going on to become the first Sikh deputy in Harris county, The Houston Chronicle reported.

The forty-two-year-old slain cop worked at the Harris County Sheriff's office for ten years and earned a promotion to deputy in 2015, The Guardian reported.

Representing the Sikh Community

The cop, described as "trailblazer" by many, made national headlines in 2015 when he was allowed to grow a beard and wear a turban on the job in the state of Texas.

“As a Sikh American, I felt the need to represent the Sikh community in law enforcement,” Dhaliwal had said at the time, according to CNN. “It will give me the chance to open up the conversation,” he had added.

"Serving in the police force is natural" to Sikhs who value service, Dhaliwal had said in a 2015 interview, according to Associated Press.

Adrian Garcia, the previous sheriff of Harris County, implemented the religious accommodation policy that allowed Dhaliwal to wear the traditional turban and beard of the Sikh religion.

According to a report by CNN, Dhaliwal's efforts ensured that there are other Sikh deputies in the Sheriff's office now.

Unimpeded Efforts to Help Others

Dhaliwal's focus, however, wasn't just his job with the Sheriff's office.

He also worked with United Sikhs, an international nonprofit, non-governmental, humanitarian relief, human development and advocacy organisation affiliated with the United Nations, Associated Press reported.

At the organisation, Dhaliwal served in a role which involved advising Sikh communities on dealing with potential hate crime threats and advocating for their religious rights, CNN reported.

His efforts there included organising the donation of supplies for first responders after Hurricane Harvey devastated the county. Dhaliwal also went to Puerto Rico to help with relief after Hurricane Maria devastated the island.

In addition, Dhaliwal was a member of the Sikh National Center in Houston. According to its chair Hardam Azad, Dhaliwal would often speak with young people at the center, showing his sheriff's badge.

While the memorials to the fallen deputy grow and the candlelight vigils held in his memory continue, thousands are expected to gather at the Berry Center in Houston on Wednesday to honour Dhaliwal’s life and legacy, CNN reported. Later on Wednesday, Dhaliwal will be cremated at a local funeral home, according to Sikh tradition, in a service held for family and members of the sheriff's office.

(With inputs from CNN, The Guardian, The Houston Chronicle and Associated Press.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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