HOUSTON, Texas – An Indian American Sikh is set to become the first police officer in Texas to serve while keeping his Sikh articles of faith, including a turban and beard.

Patrol Deputy Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal will be allowed to wear the turban and beard while patrolling the streets of Harris County in order to bolster cultural diversity.

He will be the first deputy in Texas to serve with the Sikh articles of faith, including the turban and beard, while on the job. An official announcement in this regard was made Feb. 6.

Dhaliwal, in his late 30s, has been with the sheriff's office for six years.

The move is part of Sheriff Adrian Garcia's religious accommodation policy to promote understanding, respect and to communicate with all segments of the population in Harris County.

"By making these religious accommodations we are joining the U.S. military and other law enforcement agencies across the country with observant Sikh-Americans among their ranks. Harris County is no different. We are one of the most culturally rich and diverse communities in America," Sheriff Garcia said in a statement Feb. 4.

Meanwhile, a prominent member of the Sikh community, Jasjit Singh, executive director of the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, commended Harris County Sheriff's Office's decision.

"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," Singh said.

Since 9/11, misperceptions about Sikhs' religiously mandated turbans and beards have led to an increase in discrimination against the community.

Policy changes like that at the HCSO and other law enforcement agencies across the country aim to combat this stigma while also giving qualified men and women a chance to serve the community.

-PTI

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