Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner declares October 2, 2019 as ‘Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal Day’
By Geeta Goindi
October 5, 2019 – Tributes, condolences, eulogies continue to pour in for Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal, the first Sikh deputy in Harris County, Texas, killed in a routine traffic stop on the fateful Friday afternoon of September 27. The 42-year law enforcement officer is survived by his loving wife and three beautiful children.
A 10-year veteran of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, Singh was proudly serving with his articles of faith including the turban and beard – a trailblazer and inspiration for so many!
“He was the ambassador of all that is good, all that is just, and all about service”, said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner at a memorial service Wednesday.
Thousands of people – law enforcement personnel, politicians, community leaders, compassionate citizens — packed the Berry Center, a cavernous sports arena in northwest Houston, for the final farewell. Mourners came from all corners of Texas, from New Jersey, Florida, Louisiana, California and Canada.
Turner proclaimed October 2, 2019 as ‘Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal Day’ eliciting loud cheers from the audience for his declaration.
“This community and the entire state of Texas are better for having known him”, said GOP senator Ted Cruz. Noting that “Houston is the most diverse big city in America”, the junior senator from Texas told the large crowd, “Deputy Dhaliwal embodied that diversity and he was an ambassador for understanding – understanding that we need today and everyday going forward”.
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez described Dhaliwal as “a man of dedication, faith, love and compassion”. Emotions were running high at the memorial service as law enforcement officers bid farewell to one of their own.
“There are no words to speak how heartbroken we are, how devastated”, Gonzalez said.
New Jersey’s Sikh Attorney General Gurbir Grewal noted that Dhaliwal “inspired an entire generation of Sikhs to public service”.
“He was the embodiment of the American dream”, Grewal said. “He was proof that in this country, it makes no difference where you come from, what you believe, what you look like”. A trailblazer himself, New Jersey’s first-ever Sikh attorney general averred, “You don’t have to sacrifice your identity to serve others”.
In a press statement, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas extolled Dhaliwal for his “bravery, courage and selflessness”, noting he was “a citizen of the world who was driven by a sense of purpose”.
A senior member of the House Committees on Judiciary, Homeland Security, and Budget, the Democratic lawmaker stated, “Deputy Dhaliwal made a profound impact on our community. As the first member of the Sikh religion to join the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, Deputy Dhaliwal was a trailblazer. And as he made history, he also educated a city and county and taught us all about the humility and beauty of the Sikh faith. His request to wear a turban while on duty was driven out of fidelity to the teachings of his faith and a desire to serve the community to which his family immigrated. Through his example and grace, he taught of the virtues and symbolic power of the turban and stood as a bulwark against the nasty racism that has been visited on Sikhs”.
Mayor Turner noted, in a press statement, that Dhaliwal “was a bold and groundbreaking law enforcement officer in the eyes of our county, our state, our nation, and around the world because he sought and received permission to patrol while wearing the outward signs of his Sikh faith including a turban and beard”.
“The story of him putting the Sikh imperative of ‘seva’ – selfless service – on display as a peacekeeper went worldwide. In that role, he was a walking lesson in tolerance and understanding which are values Houstonians uphold here in the nation’s most diverse big city”, he said.
The proclamation signed by Mayor Turner reads: “Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal was a well-respected member of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office. As the first Sikh member of the department, Deputy Dhaliwal was granted permission to proudly wear a turban and keep a beard while on duty, in honor of his faith, paving the way for other Sikhs to join law enforcement. He went above and beyond the call of duty, using his platform to give back to the community whenever he could. Deputy Dhaliwal’s unwavering commitment to helping those in need exceeded far beyond Houston, as he traveled to Puerto Rico following the destruction of Hurricane Maria to assist in recovery efforts”.
“A dedicated public servant who could always be seen smiling and interacting with people from all walks of life, Deputy Dhaliwal was truly a much-needed presence, and he will be missed by the many diverse communities and people, young and old, who were fortunate to cross his path. He leaves to carry on his memory and legacy, his wife and three young children, loved ones, his law enforcement family and a strong Houston Sikh community inspired by his passion and proud representation of his culture”.
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