Daughter of a New York taxi driver, Maldonado lived in Punjab until she was nine before moving to Queens
Captain Pratima Bhullar Maldonado, who came to the US from her native Punjab, India, at the age of nine, has become the highest-ranking South Asian in the New York Police Department (NYPD).
Maldonado now runs the 102nd Police Precinct in South Richmond Hill, Queens, home to one of the largest Sikh communities in the US.
“It feels like coming home. I spent more than 25 years of my life in this precinct when I was growing up,” Maldonado told CBS News. “Going to the same temple that I did as a child, and now as a captain, I love it,” Maldonado said as she visited the temple.
The mother of four was born in Punjab, India, and lived there until she was nine before moving to Queens.
She told CBS2 her new role will help with community policing. “There are language barriers, people who can’t speak the language, English is a second language. I’ve seen that firsthand growing up here,” she said.
Maldonado was promoted to her new position last month. But it wasn’t easy climbing the ranks.
“Getting out there and working, and protecting people that are cursing you out sometimes and not appreciating what you’re doing, but you still got to do what you got to do,” Maldonado said.
“It’s a big responsibility. I want to be a better and positive example, not only for my community, for other females, kids that see us every day. Because that would change their perspective of how they view law enforcement,” she added.
According to the NYPD, of the department’s 33,787 members, 10.5% are Asian.
“I feel extremely proud. It’s good to show other up and coming Asian, South Asian females that if you work hard enough you too can climb the ladder of success,” Maldonado was quoted as saying.
As New York City celebrates Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Maldonado reflected on her late father.
“My dad actually drove a taxi for many years. He supported us. He was a hard worker. He passed away in 2006, before I became a cop. He would have been so proud right now,” she told CBS.
Earlier this year, Lt Manmeet Colon, a 37-year-old Indian-origin Sikh woman officer, assumed charge as the assistant police chief in the state of Connecticut, becoming the department’s first-ever second-in-command of Asian descent.