Manmeet S. Bhullar with Detective Jasbir Singh Kainth
Jan 31 2013 - Det. Jasbir Kainth is the only Sikh officer with Calgary city police who wears a turban, according to Calgary Sun. Combined with his long beard, he is hardly the picture of a conventional-looking cop.
And the 38-year-old uses it to his advantage.
"I pull out my badge and I say 'I'm not the cleaner,' " he says, explaining a way he likes to tap into his visible differences while doing interviews.
"I don't look like the typical police officer … It's an ice breaker, a way to connect."
Working in corrections for two years, Kainth was the first officer in the Canadian prison system to wear a turban.
Unique, for sure, but it wasn't a big deal.
"There was a little bit of controversy
but it didn't make the papers," he says.
When he joined Calgary police in 1999, he was again breaking new ground.
But he was on the job a few weeks before media even picked up on the fact he was, and still is, the only officer to wear a turban.
"Obviously, I look different, but other than that it was a non-issue, it's been great," he says.
"The only thing is … I stick out, I'm 'That guy.' "
Fortunately, he's never wanted to work undercover.
Detective Jasbir Singh Kainth is the only turbaned Sikh in the Calgary city police
Born in England to East Indian parents, Kainth didn't start doing all things visibly Sikh, such as "keeping his hair" or wearing a turban, until he was 14.
"I was just buying into the religion, I just started believing," he says.
All too familiar with the curious looks and double-takes, Kainth warns it's a mistake to make assumptions based on his appearance.
He isn't radically religious, doesn't drink, (but is fine if others do) and the detective is not prudish when it comes to potty-mouth conversations.
"It's like the homeless, down-and-out and addicted - it doesn't mean they are bad. It can be dangerous, especially in policing, to make judgements."
While the force embraced his individuality, Kainth says he was never defined by it.
"They never said 'Jas, you're going to have the minority profile,'" he says.
Working as a police officer was always his dream.
Everything from university studies to a stint with corrections were intended stepping stones to achieve that goal.
He was given the quintessential Calgarian cowboy hat, but never a police-issued forage cap which, of course, he would never wear.
Instead, he takes his long, curly hair, (which according to friends makes him look a bit like Sideshow Bob,) and hides it under a turban.
Tying up his beard, however, isn't so quick and easy.
But, given he works plainclothes, he doesn't always have to do so.
"For me, it's always Movember," he jokes.
The five symbols of Sikhism for those who practice are; kes (uncut hair,) kanga (wooden comb,) kirpan (ceremonial sword,) kara (steel bracelet) and kacha (short breeches).
Kainth adheres to all of them, except for the kirpan, given he wasn't baptized.
The word Sikh means to learn - something Kainth takes to heart.
"Everybody makes mistakes but it's important to learn from them," he says.
Despite Calgary sometimes being dubbed a place prone to intolerance of religious and cultural differences, he knows that's simply not true.
Just once in five years on patrol duty did anyone lob insults based on visible Sikhness - fuelled by alcohol and mental illness.
While he remembers a woman in a mentorship program once saying being a police officer would be great because you could "rule the world," Kainth's intentions were more in line with ones shared by fellow officers.
"The reason I am a police officer is because I want to help the world," he says.
In January, he was awarded a Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee medal by Alberta Lt-Gov. Donald Ethell for contributions to the province.
"It's kind of humbling I was chosen," says Kainth, who is involved in numerous volunteer ventures outside of work.
"I don't think I've done anything out of the ordinary."
And as for being a less-ordinary looking officer, Kainth loves it.
He is just fine with jokes, like friends once threatening to turn him in to get the $25 million reward for finding Osama bin Laden, and questions about his Sikh practices born of curiosity.
As for the I'm-not-the-cleaner icebreaker, he says it works well, especially given a cop with a turban isn't something people see every day.
"If you are (wearing) a turban, it's not the elephant in the room," he says.
"But (if not,) it puts everyone at ease when I'm interrogating someone."
Although the organized crime detective hasn't put on a uniform in years he says when he does - just like donning his turban - it is a statement about who he is.
Both, he says, make him very proud./ Courtesy: Calgary Sun