Thursday, March 15, 2007

Arresting Prospects: South Asians in NYPD

Doctors, academicians, business professionals, perhaps even astronauts. These are the images which are generally conjured up when Indian-Americans are discussed. Sometimes, when traveling across New York for example, we are also made aware of South Asian taxi drivers. But Desi police officers ? Yes, there are reportedly more than 1,100 persons of South Asian origin serving on the New York Police Department, including at least five women.

Many of these Desi police officers were born in America and perhaps grew up watching TV police programs which attracted them to law enforcement as a career. Less typically, there is Officer Paramjit Kaur Gakhal, 38 and a mother of two, who came to America from Punjab with her husband at the age of 21. She had worked as a bank teller, nursing aide and sales representative before joining the NYPD. There is even a married couple, Sgt. Karena Patel and Sgt. Surinda Patel. It was Karena who first became a police officer, to be followed a year later by Surinda, who gave up a six-figure position in the apparel industry to join his wife in the NYPD.

An aggressive recruitment drive by the NYPD, one of the nation's most ethnically diverse police forces, has resulted in increasing numbers of South Asians joining the force. In addition to the prospects of adventure and the glamor of the uniform, the salaries, perks and retirement benefits are actually quite competitive with other careers and serve to counter the dangers of patrolling the streets of New York. Recruits are on full pay from the first day of training, and after five years are entitled to a base salary of $60,000 p.a. plus overtime, night pay, generous vacation allowances and other benefits. With promotion and length of service, total earnings can climb well into six figures. A retirement option is available at half pay after 20 years of service. The overall financial package is certainly a viable option as compared to the median annual household income of $61,322 enjoyed by Indian Americans (national US average $42,000 p.a.)

The highest ranking Desi on the New York police force is Captain Jagdeshwar Jaskaran. During his 14 years of service, Capt. Jaskaran has gathered over 35 medals and citations. He plays down the dangers of the job and is quoted as saying "..90 to 95 percent of police officers go through their entire careers not using a gun.." In spite of the Captain's nonchalance, some might say those are fairly dangerous odds, considering that an accountant (for example) would expect to go through 100% of his career without resorting to firearms !

The South Asians of the New York police have now formed the NYPD Desi Society as a platform for their points of view and expect to exert increasing influence for their group, working hard to disprove the Gilbert & Sullivan dictum that "..a policeman's lot is NOT a happy one ..."


ishani said...

This is a great trend - specially the women. I did a story last week on battered NRI brides and some of the steps being taken by the Indian government to protect them. Some of the responses that I received from readers were devastating. In fact, I was thinking of writing a post on that but this one is so much more cheering! If there are Indian women being battered by their desi husbands overseas - there are others who are the keepers of law too!

Rani_of_NY said...

Kudos to the captain. It makes me proud to know that an Indo-Caribbean immigrant, A Guyanese,is the highest ranking 'Desi' in the NYPD!

Anonymous said...


Jaskaran isn't the only captain in the NYPD.

Captain Zaheer Aziz is another desi