Use of Samoan to represent Sikh community in recruitment video backfires

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THE SAMOAN SIKH: Constable Heber Gasu on the video.

THE SAMOAN SIKH: Constable Heber Gasu on the video.

The New Zealand Police has come under fire and have been found to have "violated tradition" when they featured a non-Sikh officer in a badly-wrapped turban in a popular recruitment video, a Sikh community leader says.

Constable Heber Gasu, who is of Samoan descent, was one of the stars of a humorous police recruitment video released in November, Stuff reports.

Gasu sports a police-issue turban as he runs through a container yard – apparently on the hunt for a suspect.

The humorous clip has been viewed more than six million times and resulted in nearly 400 people applying to become police officers.

Rajinder Singh, the secretary general of the Supreme Sikh Society of New Zealand, said he was concerned to see the incorrectly-tied turban.

"It is actually violating tradition, the Sikh way of tying the turban.

"It just looks a bit funny, it's not [the] proper way to do it . . . This is not right."

Singh said he appreciated the inclusion of people of diverse ethnicities in the video, but wished a Sikh officer had been portrayed wearing the turban instead of Gasu.

Police figures showed there were about 25 Sikh police officers working throughout New Zealand.

If police could not use a Sikh officer, they could at least have used a Sikh actor, Singh said.

"[Gasu is] not a Sikh actor, no. You can easily see that, the features, the turban, even the way the face looks. 

"If you had a Sikh actor, he would know how to tie the turban."

A police spokeswoman confirmed Gasu was not a practicing Sikh.

However, he had a "close association" with the Sikh community and often wore a turban to "demonstrate his embracing of the Indian culture", she said.

He was also part of a police group that performed a Sikh cultural dance at community events.

"There was no intention to cause offence by this constable appearing in the turban, but rather to show that we welcome all religions and backgrounds to NZ Police."

Constable Mandeep Kaur, who is herself a Sikh, said Gasu had often worn the turban as a mark of respect for the Sikh community.

"I feel honoured that a non-Sikh officer wanted to wear turban for our recruitment video to showcase NZ Police as a place where diversity is accepted by your colleagues."

The spokeswoman said police had received one complaint regarding Gasu's appearance in the video, "and we have responded to that individual".

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