First Sikh sheriff’s deputy in Harris county was shot dead in duty last year.
A year after Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal was shot and killed on duty during a traffic stop, a portion of a tollway in Houston was renamed after the Indian-American police officer.
Dhaliwal, 42, was the first Sikh sheriff’s deputy in Harris county with a population of over 10,000 Sikhs. He made national headlines when he was allowed to grow a beard and wear a turban on the job.
He was gunned down in Cyprus on Sept. 27 last year while conducting a routine mid-day traffic stop in northwest of Houston.
Dhaliwal was scheduled to be promoted to a supervisor role where he would have mentored younger deputies on community policing.
His death resonated across the US and the world and tributes to his memory continued with the renaming of a section of Beltway 8 tollway between Texas 249 and US 290 after him last week, Houston chronicle reported.
The Harris County Toll Road Authority put up the sign ‘HCSO Deputy Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal Memorial Tollway’ near Texas 249. A special ceremony was also performed at the Gurdwara Sikh National Centre on the occasion.
READ: Houston post office to be renamed after Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal (September 21, 2020)
Dhaliwal, a father of three, joined the force 10 years back and was the state’s first law enforcement officer to receive permission to wear a religious turban and beard while on duty.
Commissioner Adrian Garcia, who hired Dhaliwal, said, “I was honored to commemorate a section of the Beltway 8 as ‘Deputy Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal Memorial Tollway’ to honor one of HC’s finest who paid the ultimate sacrifice.”
“We miss our friend and teammate,” said Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez. “It’s a loss that we feel every day,” he said.
Garcia as former county sheriff had allowed Dhaliwal to wear a beard and turban, Sikh articles of faith, while serving — becoming one of the first law enforcement agencies to do so in the country, Chronicle said.
The new policy was borne from an incident just before Garcia took office as sheriff when a Sikh had been wrongly arrested.
READ: Houstonians pay tribute to slain deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal (October 3, 2019 )
Garcia met with the incensed community and during his remarks, told them new policies and training will be there, but that wouldn’t transform the department.
“What will change us is you encouraging your sons and daughters to join the Harris County Sheriff’s Office so that we can change from within,” he was quoted as saying.
“Who would know that Sandeep would be in that audience with his father who had been a policeman in India, and look to him and tell him he wanted to be in law enforcement,” the former sheriff said.
It set off a chain of events that would change the fiber of the department. Later, he would see a Sikh in a magazine wearing his turban and beard in a US military uniform.
“It set me off. How could the US military do this and not us?” Garcia asked himself.
After an internal debate, he gathered his legal team, staff, commanders, and members of the community and worked to craft what is now known as the Accommodations Policy.
Dhaliwal’s family attended the ceremony and was touched by the remembrance. “It’s been an emotional week for us,” his father Pyara said. “All the memories that happened one year ago are fresh like yesterday.”
“We are very thankful and honored by the designation. I believe this will remind the community and succeeding generations that pass the signs to live a life of selfless service as he (Sandeep) lived his life loving one another,” his father was quoted as saying.
He was raised in India by his mother who told him the stories of his religious ancestors. He kept it in his mind, and he lived it as a symbol of diversity and unity.
Coincidentally, the signs are adjacent to the new Gurdwara (Sikh temple) for the Sikh National Center located at 7500 N. Sam Houston Parkway.
The exits near the signage also lead to the soon to be renamed post office bearing his name. Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher who was present for the dedication said the legislation has passed the US House of Representatives.
Slain Texas deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal’s funeral on Wednesday (September 30, 2019)