Having to think twice about reporting a burglary

About a week ago the Houston Chronicle ran a story about a burglary here in Houston. A Sikh family (the Tagores) came home one night to find that their master bedroom had been ransacked and that a window was broken. They did what anyone would have done: called the police to report the crime. Then the story becomes not so routine:

The Harris County Sheriff’s Office is investigating allegations that deputies harassed a family of Sikhs whose home was burglarized last week.

Family members say the deputies handcuffed them, roughed them up and taunted them instead of taking a report on the break-in.

One deputy reportedly asked them if they’d “heard about the bombings in Bombay.” Another allegedly said he had been to Kuwait and “knew about Muslims…”

“The allegations, if they’re true, are certainly intolerable and inconsistent with our policies,” said sheriff’s spokesman John Legg.

The deputies could face anything from disciplinary action to termination, Legg said. He declined to release their names pending further investigation. [Houston Chronicle]

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p>This incident occurred on November 26th. On November 27th, a film crew from San Antonio-based Sach Productions was already in Houston to interview the family.

The idea behind the birth of Sach Productions is the creation of an agency that uses the film media to further the Sikh cause. The intention of Sach Productions is to introduce Sikhs to the world and then bring forth issues that concern them.

The initial projects are short documentaries that introduce Sikhs to the Western world. The intention is to then bring issues relating to Punjab, Human Rights, Arts and Culture to the people. [Sach Productions]

By December 5th, as the local news began to pick up on the story, Sach Productions had already filmed and uploaded a documentary about the incident on to the web:

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The rapid reaction by Sach Productions is pretty impressive. So thoroughly documenting the story and then making the material available allows us bloggers to do a more effective job of spreading the news and detailing what actions can be taken.

A petition for strong action will soon be delivered to Harris County Judge Ed Emmett and Sheriff-Elect Adrian Garcia. It can be viewed and signed here.

We ask that you, Sheriff-elect Garcia and Judge Emmett, promise to ensure that the deputies involved in this incident are disciplined, that the Harris County Sheriff’s office takes decisive steps to put an end to racism and profiling by its officers, and that the Sheriff’s office apologize to the family for the deputies’ behavior. [Petition]

The best way to make your voice heard on this issue is probably to respectfully contact Sheriff-Elect Adrian Garcia directly [hat tip to The Langar Hall for providing digits]:

1730 Jefferson, Suite 214, Houston, Texas 77003
Mailing address: P.O.Box 30066, Houston, Texas 77249-0066
713.652.5191 office
713.652.5902 fax [Link]

If you send an email here the Sikh Coalition will compile questions to Garcia for you: questionforgarcia [at] sikhcoalition.org

Houston has a large South Asian American population and elected officials know that if enough people raise their voice they will be forced to take action out of political necessity.

68 thoughts on “Having to think twice about reporting a burglary

  1. One deputy reportedly asked them if they’d “heard about the bombings in Bombay.”

    atleast he was up on current events…..

  2. When will this Sikh = Muslim = Trouble nonsense end? Can people really be that dumb?

    It’s a trifle insulting to call people dumb because they mistake Sikhs for Muslims. Sikhs come from a part of the word with a whole lot of Muslims, and share many of the physical features , cultural norms and customs as their Islamic neighbors. They were turbans which is rare in America. On the other hand many iconic images of Muslim figures are depicted in a turban (like the Ayatollahs).

    Muslims = Troubles will end once Muslims are associated with terrorism,violence, etc to the same extent as any other community. I do not see this happening anytime soon.

    Until them Sikhs should raise their profile in America as a distinct Non -Muslim community (This includes vehemently denying being Muslims) until it becomes part of the public consciousness.

  3. What if you call a cop because you want to report your tv missing and when the cop comes to make a report of the crime he see’s your sister or mother in the kitchen cooking a steak for dinner and she is using a knife to cut it, is the cop going to get scared and point a taser at your mother or sister or cooking dinner and demand the knife be put away? I dont think so.

    I also read that at the peak of this situation 12 police officers were called to the home. Really?

  4. It’s a trifle insulting to call people dumb because they mistake Sikhs for Muslims. Sikhs come from a part of the word with a whole lot of Muslims, and share many of the physical features , cultural norms and customs as their Islamic neighbors. They were turbans which is rare in America. On the other hand many iconic images of Muslim figures are depicted in a turban (like the Ayatollahs). Until them Sikhs should raise their profile in America as a distinct Non -Muslim community (This includes vehemently denying being Muslims) until it becomes part of the public consciousness.

    Dizzy -

    1. It doesn’t work. Bigots aren’t interested in distinguishing between different types of “others”
    2. I have no desire to tell people “beat them up not us!” It’s wrong unless you want to create a two tiered system of rights, one for Muslims and the other for “good people”

    Like it or not, Sikhs are in it with Muslims one way or another. To a smaller extent, other brown folks are too, which is how the British Police ended up killing a Brazilian. Heck, there have been incidents in airplanes that have involved Orthodox Jews (passengers complained that they felt unsafe when the Jewish passengers started praying).

    Haven’t you ever read Pastor Niemoller?

  5. 56 · Jef Costello said

    No uniformed force worth its name–whether the police in Mumbai, the Indian army, the USMC, or the Harris County PD–will accept bigoted behavior in its ranks, let alone in its name.

    What does this saccharine hyperbole even mean?

    57 · MoorNam said

    Reduce the role and power of Government, and such incidents will be minimal.

    So you’re saying that individuals and private companies can police the police better than the public can? You really believe that?

  6. “…which is how the British Police ended up killing a [brown] Brazilian.”

    Maybe so, but about the 7/11 case, look again. The Brazilian wasn’t exactly brown. In fact, as Brazilians go, he was quite white(ish),to judge from the photo. Now this is significant not because it disproves cop racism but because of the person for whom Menezes was mistaken….who really was quite brown.

    http://www.theage.com.au/ffximage/2005/08/17/menezes_osman_wideweb__430x253.jpg

    Those latter day Sherlock Holmses cum gestapo apparently “mistook” him for a light-skinned black guy named Hussain Osman. Look again. I don’t think so, though if you’re convinced all Brazilians look alike and can be mistaken for brown people anywhere else in the world, well…you’ve given them an alibi.

    Menezes was shot 7 times close up execution style after he had entered the tube at a normal pace, picking up a free newspaper on the way. After the police — or whoever they were — cleared the car, the poor guy was surrounded by said police(?) who were not dressed or identified as regular police according to the tube witnesses who stood outside the train. I know times have changed, but Bobbies are not known for carrying out summary executions. They have specialists for that.

    LOL. The executioners didn’t “mistake” him for Osman. He knew something he shouldn’t have known, but didn’t know he shouldn’t have known–sure didn’t know he was being hunted. So everybody was screaming about the Brazilian and xenophobia. So much the better–they’re used to that. Meanwhile the salient facts of the story slide into the pandora’s box of conspiracy theories.

    There’s so much other weird stuff that happened that day, 7/11, that it’s 9/11′s little brother in anomalies. Like the “bandaged” man supposedly injured by explosions who was described by a concerned Jamaican witness who had stopped to help, scooting off as soon as the cameras turned away.

    It’ll all come out in the next century.

  7. My cousin and his wife got held at gunpoint, tied up in their own house and robbed. It followed a pattern of immigrant retail shoopkeepers getting robbed when they return home. yet the cops showed total disinterest. No real concern when they came to the house. They weren’t abusive to my cousin’s family, but they could care less.

    I have no respect for such cops. Whenever i get pulled over by cops with white friends, i notice much better behavior by the cops. It is not true in every case, of course, as I met quite a few good cops. But I believe the Sikh family here. If it was a good old Texan boy with a shotgun, they would have asked him nicely to put it down.

  8. 46 · Divya said

    So, even if I am not Sikh, even if I am not desi, even if I don’t care about Sikhs or Muslims or social justice, even if I am totally and completely 100% selfish, I still have an interest in seeing the police officers in question disciplined for this incident.
    This is a good way to put such incidents in perspective. Even if this was white on white or black on black injustice, it is injustice nevertheless. This part of the equation tends to get lost when religion and ethnicity are discussed. It’s hard to leave these factors out of this discussion of course since they are relevant to the case, but I think it tends to obscure the larger point about the injustice.

    Thanks Divya. Although the situation isn’t completely similar, I am thinking of Abhijit Mahato’s murderer, who went on to kill Eve Carson about a month later. Due to typical media bias Eve Carson got more attention – blonde, white, young, and a student body president – and I don’t place one tragedy above the other, but if Mahato’s death had gotten the same urgency and outrage, maybe Carson would still be alive. (Um, and I’m not trying to imply the argument that “we have to stop people who hurt desis before they hurt WHITE PEOPLE!!” – just saying that it is ultimately self-defeating for a society to make excuses when police officers screw up this badly.)

  9. 38 · sizzle said

    once i was standing in a crowd of spectators after a big sporting event, a fair distance from some commotion and celebratory riots.

    Where was this: State College PA? or West Virginia?

  10. hmmm, I dont know about this one… I would wait to see where the evidence falls. With that said, If my feeling turns out not to be true, hopefuly there would be punitive action. But I dont like the idea of 74 about turbaned sikhs being on the force…. Whats the qualification ? Why all ethnicities must be represented in police force weather or not they have qualification or not. I also find my self in agreement with the minority position here which is possession of a weapon infront of law enforcement is a stupid idea to say the least….

  11. This is one of my greatest fear of most Americans – they feel and act as if they know a lot, but actually don’t. An arrogant person who is also ignorant is the most dangerous person in the world.

  12. white cops in texas…do you really expect them to act any different.

    Research how black people have been treated in Texas and this event will seem like the cops where actually very nice.

  13. 81 · Jef Costello said

    Kaka, you either have a point to make or are just feeling lonely.

    Bapu, you’re “points” are nothing but a bunch of unsubstantiated conjecture, generalizations, and overwrought bluster. I’m still waiting for you to explain what you meant in comment 56.