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. Jagjit Singh, Reserve Officer, LA Sheriff's DeptThe 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. US Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez 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.” Scene from training videoThe 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. “This video is a product of continued successful collaboration between SALDEF and the Community Relations Service and the pioneering vision of Director Sharee Freeman,” said SALDEF President Mirin Kaur Phool. “Director Freeman has worked tirelessly after September 11, 2001 to ensure that the American public is aware of the Sikh American community.” Additionally, at the event, Director Freeman also announced her plans to step down as the Director of U.S. Department of Justice Community Relations Service. During her five year tenure, CRS has been a leader in the government's effort to build and sustain community partnerships within racial and ethnic communities across the nation. On behalf of SALDEF and the entire Sikh American community we thank Director Freeman for her esteemed public service and dedication to supporting the voice of minority groups across the United States. SALDEF would like to especially recognize Sandeep Singh of Marketwise Communications, the director and production manager of this ground breaking educational film. His involvement and unflinching dedication were instrumental in the production of this high quality educational film. SALDEF also extends thanks to all the volunteers and the staff of CRS for their assistance with the organizing of this event. Over the past several years, SALDEF has successfully collaborated with government agencies to produce material that informs law enforcement about Sikh American culture and articles of faith with the objective of ensuring a positive interaction between Sikh Americans and law enforcement personnel including most notably: * In December 2004, SALDEF collaborated with the U.S. Department of Justice to publish a poster entitled, Common Sikh American Head Coverings. The purpose of the poster is to provide law enforcement with basic information about the various types of head coverings worn by Sikh men and women. * In November 2006, SALDEF partnered with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to release a poster entitled, Sikh Americans and the Kirpan. The poster seeks to create awareness about the Kirpan (religious sword) and recommends protocols on its appropriate handling. The video will be available for viewing and download in Mid-February. Please visit www.saldef.org for information on the video and its distribution.