A YOUNG Sikh man taken off a Qantas flight because fellow passengers
were afraid to depart with him on board was the trigger which led
Amaninder Singh Sandhu to seek a role within police.
by the fear and ignorance of people regarding his race and religion, he
thought that one way to win the trust and confidence of the public was
to work for an agency that exemplified those qualities.
September 2007, Amaninder attended a police recruitment session in
Auckland, intending to be an observer. However Asian Liaison Officer
Jessica Phuang encouraged him join the session. When he raised the
issue of wearing a turban as a possible barrier to his joining, Jessica
said, “Let’s worry about that when we get there.”
turban has spiritual and historical significance and is worn with a
great deal of pride by orthodox followers of Sikhism. Sikhs do not cut
their hair or beards, to demonstrate they are living their lives as
Waheguru (God) wills.
That ‘can do’ attitude first
demonstrated by Jessica has typified the subsequent relationship
between police and the Sikh community as the question of uniform was
Police needed to ensure that the
health, safety and public recognition elements of the uniform were
maintained, while Amaninder and the Sikh community wanted to preserve
the essential elements of faith necessary to practice the Sikh
Both parties approached the issue with goodwill and a desire to reach common ground.
December 2007 the Sikh Council of New Zealand presented police with a
sample turban, correctly tied for consideration. Police confirmed that
the turban was acceptable and the process of developing protocols to
govern its use was begun by Inspector Jason Ross and Advisory Officer
From that point Amaninder, the Sikh
Council, Police College and Police National Headquarters
representatives, including Superintendent Wally Haumaha, Senior
Sergeant Iain Saunders, Sergeant Rakesh Naidoo and Kefeng Chu, worked
together to find a solution to issues which arose. The understanding
and knowledge of all parties grew as a result of this process.
March 2008, three members of the Sikh Council stayed at the Police
College to experience first-hand the life of a recruit. They agreed to
solutions to minor problems – for example an acceptable smaller version
of the turban for use during swimming training and with the riot helmet.
is a trailblazer. He is the first Sikh police officer to wear a turban
as part of NZ Police uniform and the first turbaned officer to graduate
from the Police College.
The work undertaken to make the turban a part of NZ Police uniform has already reaped rewards for other officers.
Constable Jagmohan Malhi, an officer based in Nelson, was able to
return to the practice of his faith and adopted the approved turban in