NRI Bajwa is
the first to wear the turban in Ottawa Police
In many ways, Const. Jasdeep Bajwa is just like any other rookie
police officer. Eager to learn and excited about his job, the
25-year old Bajwa, hired last August, is the ideal candidate
for the Ottawa Police Service.
It was my dream ever since I was a child, he says
of wanting to be a cop. Thats what I had always
wanted to be. While Bajwas enthusiasm may not set
him apart from his colleagues, his uniform certainly does. Bajwa
wears a turban, one of five items Sikhs wear following their
baptism. There are other Sikhs on the Ottawa police force, but
Bajwa is the first to wear the turban as part of his uniform.
As precedent setting as it is for this city, Bajwa is not the
first turban-wearing police officer in province or the country.
In fact, local police modeled Bajwas blue turban after
styles worn by Toronto and Peel officers. In 1991, Baltej Singh
Dhillon became the first officer to wear a turban in the RCMP.
While Dhillon was initially at the centre of controversy over
his head wear, Bajwa has yet to encounter a negative comment
on the beat. Instead, he has fielded a handful of curious questions
from civilians about the turban and its significance.
India to Kanata
Even in his native India, Bajwa grew up wanting to be a cop.
When his family moved to Kanata four years ago, he took a few
years to master English and grow accustom to his new country
before following his dream.
When he applied to the Ottawa police, Bajwa didnt stop
to wonder whether he would make waves because of what he wore.
He points out that out of 20 people hired at the same time as
him, six were women, two were black and one was Asian.
During the past few years, Ottawa police have been actively
trying to recruit visible minorities. Staff Sgt. Syd Gravel,
who manages the Ottawa police outreach recruitment project,
says that to effectively serve a culturally diverse community
such as Ottawa, the police force has to reflect that public.
Bajwa is a prime example of how policing is branching out.
The Ottawa police service recognizes that some changes
such as alterations to uniforms must be made to accommodate
officers of diverse backgrounds, say Gravel. He adds that when
the force hires people from various cultural backgrounds, it
keeps in mind they will bring a different way of doing things,
which can benefit the force.
There are different ways of doing things
that are just
as effective as others and may be even more effective if you
understand the culture better, says Gravel.