Washington DC, January 19, 2007 - This past Wednesday, January 17, 2006, the Community Relations Service (CRS) of the Department of Justice in partnership with the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF), the largest and oldest Sikh American civil rights and advocacy organization, released a first of its kind police roll call training video titled, On Common Ground - Sikh American Cultural Awareness for Law Enforcement.
The ground breaking 17-minute training video was developed by SALDEF for the Community Relations Service and released at an event attended by over 150 members of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies as well as prominent members of the civil rights and Sikh American community.
Since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, there has been a sharp increase in the number of hate incidents and hate crimes against Sikh Americans of South Asian decent. These attacks have been primarily due to the lack of awareness and the common misconception that Sikh Americans are either from the Middle East, Arab or Muslim.
Speaking in absentia, United States Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez noted, “The film is designed to educate law enforcement working in non-emergency circumstances about cultural norms of Sikh Americans. It makes clear that Sikhs are an integral part of American society. I commend CRS, and I offer my sincere appreciation to CRS and SALDEF for their perseverance and creative effort in producing this educational film.”
The training video will be distributed to federal, state and local law enforcement officials across the country. The educational film includes detailed information about the cultural practices and articles of the Sikh faith which are commonly unfamiliar to law enforcement. The protocols for the respectful handling of the articles of faith recommended in the training video are designed with officer safety in mind and are to be followed only in a non-emergency, non-crisis situation.