Home News Texas sheriff allowing officers to wear beards and turbans on patrol

Texas sheriff allowing officers to wear beards and turbans on patrol

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Image from video, below.  Credit: Harris County Sheriff's Office
Image from video, below. Credit: Harris County Sheriff’s Office

 

By Brett Gillin

In a landmark decision involving both police uniforms and the freedom of religious expression in the law enforcement community, the sheriff of greater Houston, Texas, has announced that officers will now be permitted to wear beards and turbans while on patrol. The decision, which is being praised by many in the community, is not without detractors though. More interestingly, it brings a juxtaposition to a recent ruling in Wyoming, where a longtime deputy retired after being told his cowboy hat and boots would no longer be allowed while he was on patrol.

Sheriff Adrian Garcia made the announcement last week that active Sikh officers would be permitted to wear their faith’s traditional beard and turban while they patrolled the streets of greater Houston. This move comes after a long string of requests from Houston’s Sikh activists. Activists had petitioned the department to consider the freedom of religious expression for years. Houston has one of the nation’s largest communities of South Asian Sikhs, according to this article in the Washington Post. The move joins Houston with Washington D.C. and Riverside, California, as some of the first police forces in the nation to allow Sikhs to wear their “articles of faith.”

“By making these religious accommodations, we will ensure that (our) office reflects the community we serve, one of the most culturally rich and diverse in America,” Garcia told reporters. “Deputies need to not only understand, respect and communicate with all segments of the population, bur represent it as well.”

Jasjit Singh, the executive director of the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund in Washington applauded the move, telling reporters “With this policy, one of the largest sheriff’s offices in the country has affirmed that a person does not have to choose between their faith and a career of service.”

You can bet that former Sublett County Deputy Gene Bryson might have something to say about the decision over in Houston. As you read earlier on LEO Affairs, Bryson was the Wyoming deputy who retired after 40 years in the service when Sheriff Stephen Haskell told his officers that they would no longer be able to wear Western attire while on patrol.

“I’m very much for the Western way of life and the look. And that’s the way I dress. However, for a professional outfit… I like everybody to look the same. We are one team unified in one purpose. That is to do our job,” Haskell told reporters.

When Bryson retired, he told reporters that the uniform change was “kind of the reason why. I’m not going to change. I’ve been here for 40-odd years in the sheriff’s office, and I’m not going to go out and buy combat boots and throw my vest and hat away and say, ‘This is the new me.’ I’ve had a cowboy hat on since 19. That’s what looks good to me in the sheriff’s department. It’s Western. It’s Wyoming.”

While the Western outfit doesn’t qualify as “articles of faith,” it certainly does reflect the community that the police officer’s serve. That was one of the major points the Garcia told reporters when explaining his decision to allow beards and turbans, despite the standard uniform not allowing them. In a county that True West magazine one named a “True Western town,” the decision to not allow officers to wear Western hats or boots could cause people to ask whether the officers are truly allowed to reflect the community they serve.

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1 COMMENT

  1. This country has gone in the toilet. No cowboy hats but a turban ok. If the turban wearing cops don’t like it or the Sikh group let them get a different job. I can’t believe a spineless sheriff made this happen.

  2. This is used by America’s enemies as the first step in tearing down our institutions and our society as a whole. Just like our military, our law enforcement officers need to be united in their uniforms and their appearance!

  3. Much respect and adoration to the sheriff of this department. The Sikh community is a respectful one, they’re some of the hardest working, and kind people I’ve met. This will only strengthen community relations, and I applaud this decision. In this day and age, we as LEO’s need more supportive people on our side, and this is taking a great step in getting there. The Sikh/Indian community have always been great allies..

    To those who are assuming that the turban is something of Muslim faith, I urge you to educate yourselves. A cowboy hat and boots aren’t comparable to a turban and beard, as it’s something completely different. For those who want to wear your yarmulkes, or gold crosses, I urge you to request your department to allow you to do so.

  4. Then ALL of the rest of the Officers should grow beards and wear turbans and see where that goes. When they step in and stop it what a great class action suit…..

  5. So I assume the Christian, Jewish, and Hindu officers can now also display their religious articles of faith? Think again. That might offend someone. NOT wearing religious garb was supposed to show neutrality by officers. Guess that’s over.

  6. It’s interesting that law enforcement is a government entity, barred from displays of religious affiliation. If a Christmas tree were placed in front of the Sheriff’s Office, the ACLU would have a field day, yet they won’t budge when a turban and beard are worn for religious purposes, in full view of the public, by PUBLIC SERVANTS…It’s just a shame that the complaints of the few outweigh the views of the silent majority.

  7. One of those assholes comes to my car window wearing a turbin and a gun and I will kill him on the spot being in fear for my life.

    Stupid sheriff should be impeached.

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