Post office renamed in Houston in honour of slain Sikh cop

Houston, Oct 6: A post office in west Houston has been renamed after Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal, in a fitting tribute to the trailblazing Indian-American Sikh police officer who died after being shot multiple times from behind while on duty in the US state of Texas in 2019.
Dhaliwal, the beloved 42-year-old Harris County Sheriff”s Deputy and a father of three, was gunned down during a traffic stop on September 27. Dhaliwal made national headlines in 2015 when he became the first police officer in Texas to serve while keeping his Sikh articles of faith, including a turban and beard.
“Our fallen brother Deputy Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal was honoured by renaming a postal office in west Harris County in his memory. We are grateful to the Texas delegation, Harris County Commissioners Court, United States Postal Office, & the Sikh community for honoring him,” Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) said in a tweet on Wednesday.
Houston’s Sikh community and local elected officials and members of law enforcement gathered on Tuesday at a ceremony at 315 Addicks-Howell Road to dedicate the “Deputy Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal Post Office.”
“I am honoured to play a role in commemorating Deputy Dhaliwal’s remarkable life of selfless service,” said Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher, who brought the renaming legislation to the US House of Representatives.
“He represented the very best of our community: he worked for equality, connection, and community through his life of service to others. I was glad to work with a bipartisan delegation, our community partners, and those in the Sikh community, to pass legislation to rename this building the Deputy Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal Post Office,” Fletcher said.
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said the “remarkable commemoration” serves as a permanent reminder of Dhaliwal’s “lasting contributions to our community”.
“This will serve as a permanent reminder of Deputy Dhaliwal’s service, sacrifice, and example to us all. We are thankful to Congresswoman Fletcher and the entire Texas delegation for honouring a committed public servant who touched countless lives and served as a trailblazer. He was a true hero who inspired everyone to love their neighbours,” Gonzalez said.
According to the sheriff, Dhaliwal joined the agency as a detention officer in 2009 after feeling compelled to bridge the gap between law enforcement and the Sikh community.
He later became a patrol deputy, leading the way for other Sikhs to serve with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.
“I’m thankful that visitors to the newly renamed post office will see his name and be encouraged to learn how special he was,” said Commissioner Adrian Garcia, who originally hired Dhaliwal in his capacity as the previous sheriff of Harris County.
“Deputy Dhaliwal made the ultimate sacrifice to protect us, and he will never be forgotten. I am thankful to Representative Fletcher and the United States Postal Service for this important recognition. Sandeep lived his life with the purpose to spread dignity and respect to all he came in contact with, and I am hopeful that the Deputy Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal Post Office will inspire all who visit to follow in Sandeep’s example,” Garcia said.
Father of the slain police officer Pyara Singh Dhaliwal expressed gratitude to the people of Houston for their support.
“Since my son was taken from our family in a senseless act of violence, we have received an outpouring of support and love from the greater Houston community. We are so grateful and so honoured that Sandeep is being memorialised in this way—forever becoming a part of the city that he served faithfully both in and out of uniform,” he said.
US Postal Service District Director Julie Wilbert, however, said getting a post office renamed was not a common occasion and is reserved for a select group of individuals.
“To put it in its proper perspective, the postal service has over 31,000 retail and post offices. There are less than 900 that have been dedicated in honour of an individual,” Wilbert said.
Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) Southwest Regional Director Bobby Singh said: “Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal did not set out to be a trailblazer, he simply approached life with a caring heart, a generous spirit, and a warmth that brought people together.”
“Along with the many friends here today, our community has been forever changed by his death but this building will forever serve as a recognition of his life. He lived the true American—and Houstonian—life,” he added.
In the wake of Dhaliwal’s death, Fletcher led the entire Houston delegation in introducing a resolution to honour the life and mourn the loss of the police officer and spoke on the House floor about his remarkable life and tragic death.
In 2020, the Congresswoman’s bill, H.R. 5317, the Deputy Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal Post Office Act, was passed and signed into law by then US President Donald Trump.
This isn’t the first dedication for Deputy Dhaliwal. A year after his death, a portion of Beltway 8 near Highway 249 was renamed in his honour.
Since 2015, Dhaliwal was the “history-making” police officer in Texas to serve while keeping his Sikh articles of faith. He was allowed to wear the turban and beard while patrolling the streets in order to bolster cultural diversity.
With this policy, one of the largest sheriff’s offices in the country had affirmed that a person does not have to choose between their faith and a career of service. Since 9/11, misperceptions about Sikhs’ religiously-mandated turbans and beards have led an uptick to incidents of discrimination against the community.
Policy changes like that at the Harris County Sheriff Office and other law enforcement agencies across the country aimed to combat this stigma while also giving qualified men and women a chance to serve the community.
Dhaliwal worked with United Sikhs, a global humanitarian relief and advocacy nonprofit, to help organise the donation of truckloads of supplies for first responders post-Harvey Hurricane that made landfall on Texas and Louisiana in August 2017. (PTI)