British Sikh Police Association launches

According to the Sikh Times, Sikh police officers are coming together to help address discrimination within the workforce in addition to addressing community relations between Sikhs and the British police.

The Association, which is to launch next Wednesday, lists its goals as follows:

The aims and objectives of the BPSA are;

  • To establish a national forum for Sikh members of the British police services
  • To assist the British police services in developing strategies to recruit, retain, and progress Sikh members of the service hence increasing Sikh representation in the police service at all levels
  • To provide a religious, cultural and social forum for members of the BSPA through celebration of dates and festivals on the Sikh calendar.
  • To promote an understanding of the Sikh Faith and the Sikh values of democracy, equality and justice within the police services
  • To provide support and advice to Sikh members of the police service.
  • To promote social cohesion and integration.

The proposed organization seems chiefly (and understandably) concerned with the recruitment, promotion, and support of Sikhs within the police services. There’s an element of “minority” incorporation into the violent power of States that always makes me a bit uncomfortable.

Many argue that ensuring minority representation and hiring is important to build investment, comfortability, and trust between marginalized communities and the dominant, or more powerful, majority. This is particularly true given the tense relations between the British police services and communities of color throughout the 70s, 80s, 90s, and now again in the context of the so-called “War” on Terror.

Even with the policy argument for minority representation, it’s less certain if having in-group representation ensures cultural competency, a willingness to conform to directives, or advocacy on behalf of community inclusivity. Put more bluntly, for communities who are the targets of State violence, seeing someone who looks like you doing exacting violence certainly doesn’t help relations. It seems to me that a defining factor is the political culture of the local institution; sometimes that culture reflects the diversity of the community it serves, and sometimes it operates as an obscure parallel universe.

Nonetheless, hopefully the BPSA will help ensure a feeling of safety and support among those Sikhs who do serve as police, in all their various capacities. It cannot be an easy task to serve in commissions that do not reflect the same diversity as their neighborhoods, particularly given this group’s stated commitment to fostering positive relations and improving opportunities for integration. I’m curious to see what comes out of this Association, if its presence is able to ensure greater advocacy/lobbying internally, and whether it can effectively serve both the police services and Sikh communities at-large.

The Association will launch at Thames Valley Police HQ in Kidlington, Oxford on April 29, 2009. All are welcome.

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