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Jasdeep Bajwa- Sikh police officer with Turban in Ottawa, Canada


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. “That’s what I had always wanted to be.” While Bajwa’s 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 Bajwa’s 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 didn’t 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.




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