May 1, 2011 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
California (April 30, 2011): In a huge win for the Sikh community, starting this summer, all law enforcement officers in the state of California will be trained to identify and respect Sikhs and Sikh practices. The training will be given as part of a required class in all police academies throughout the state, and will also be available online. In addition, current police officers are being advised of the training materials through a two-page bulletin being issued to all police departments.
The training, which is sponsored by California’s Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission (POST), is part of a workbook used in police academies. It covers everything from identifying the 5Ks to how to search someone who is wearing a kirpan.
“Our goal is to ensure peace officers are trained to interact with various populations in California. By fostering respect for people of all religions, we hope that our officers and deputies will be better able to do their jobs in the field,” said Bob Ziglar, Basic Training Coordinator of POST.
The training is being implemented two years after California’s state legislature unanimously passed a law requiring California’s law enforcement officers to be trained about Sikhs. That law, AB 504, was vetoed by then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. However, POST has since been working with the Sikh Coalition and other local community members to devise a training plan of their own.
“Hundreds of Sikhs participated in lobbying for the original legislation, and this outcome is a direct result of their hard work. Thank you all. We are overjoyed that the state has finally taken the first step to stop unnecessary arrests of Sikhs for practicing their faith,” said Neha Singh, Western Region Director of the Sikh Coalition.
“The Sikh community should not live in fear of arrest by law enforcement for carrying the kirpan,” said Assembly member Warren Furutani, who introduced the legislation two years ago. “I thank POST for proactively taking these steps to ensure that Sikhs can practice their faith freely.”
The training does not mention anything about the legality of the kirpan in the state of California. However, our hope is that training police officers about the Sikh articles of faith will foster religious understanding and decrease the number of arrests of Sikhs for carrying these items.
February 2009: Assembly member Warren Furutani introduces AB 504, a bill intended to train law enforcement officers about Sikhs.
September 2009: Both houses of the California state legislature unanimously pass AB 504, authorizing it to become a law.
October 2009: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoes AB 504 without any explanation.
June 2010: POST sends out a training bulletin to all law enforcement departments statewide telling them to begin educating officers about Sikhs & Sikh practices.
February 2011: POST prints new workbooks for all its police academies, which include several pages specifically about Sikhs & Sikh practices.
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