Chicago Police Department Diversity Videos Educate Officers on Non-Christian Faiths (2005)

After the terror attacks of 9/11 there was an alarming number of incidents of violence across the United States against people who were perceived to be Muslim. In Chicago, Police Chief Terry Hillard held a multi-cultural forum to hear feedback from people of all religions on post-9/11 backlash. At these forums he learned that his officers were often ignorant about non-Christian faiths and were sometimes rude to people from these communities. Using a grant from the Justice Department and guidance from lay leaders and clergyClergy are the body of ordained men (and in some cases women) who are authorized to perform the priestly, pastoral, or rabbinical duties of the community—as distinct from the laity whom they serve. in each religious community, the police department created a series of short videos to train their officers to be respectful of non-Christian faiths and to educate them on how to interact with people of all religions. The videos cover the basic information police need to know when working security at airports, visiting people’s homes, entering religious centers, and when questioning witnesses or suspects.

The concise 10 minute videos, which have been shown to all Chicago police officers, educate officers about the SikhSikhs call their tradition the “Sikh Panth,” meaning the “community (panth) of the disciples of the Guru.” The tradition reveres a lineage of ten Gurus, beginning with Guru Nanak in the 16th century and coming to a clos. with the death of Guru Gob..., Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist and Hindu faiths. Every officer’s day begins with a half hour “roll call” prior to hitting the street. This time is allotted for training either from people in the department or using streaming video presentations on topics ranging from officer safety to showing courtesy to the public. The short but thorough videos were easily integrated into the officers’ daily routine making it possible to show the videos to everyone on the force. Each video provides a brief summary of the religion’s belief system in addition to a description of worship practices and information on how to act respectfully when interacting with people of each faith tradition. ChaplainA chaplain is a member of the clergy who serves in a prison, a hospital, a college, or some other institution outside the context of the normal congregational life of a religious community. Dean of the Chicago police force narrates each segment and representatives of each community explain how police can perform their job while being respectful of members of their faith.

In addition to the increase in hate crimes, the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent “War on Terror” led to increased security at airports, transportation centers, and government buildings. One video segment focuses specifically on what security personnel working at Chicago airports need to know when dealing with Sikh and Muslim passengers.

SikhismSikhs call their tradition the “Sikh Panth,” meaning the “community (panth) of the disciples of the Guru.” The tradition reveres a lineage of ten Gurus, beginning with Guru Nanak in the 16th century and coming to a clos. with the death of Guru Gob...

This was the first video segment produced because SikhsSikhs call their tradition the “Sikh Panth,” meaning the “community (panth) of the disciples of the Guru.” The tradition reveres a lineage of ten Gurus, beginning with Guru Nanak in the 16th century and coming to a clos. with the death of Guru Gob... were the targets of much violence after 9/11 largely due to the turbanSikh men wear a turban and Sikh women wear a long head scarf known as a chunni in fulfillment of one of the basic vows taken when joining the Khalsa (the order of committed Sikhs)—to leave the hair uncut as a sign of complete dedication to God. This is ... worn by men (and some women). The video begins by explaining that Sikhism is a monotheistic faith revealed through Sikh gurus; it is not a blend of other faiths. The video then provides a brief history of Sikhism and explains the 5 articles of faith which Sikhs are required to wear at all times: kirpanThe kirpan is a sword, more commonly a small knife, carried by initiated Sikhs who have become members of the Khalsa, the order of fully committed Sikhs. It is one of five symbols of Sikh identity. (ceremonial sword), kara (steel bracelet), kachera (undergarments), kanga (comb), and keshas (uncut hair).

The kirpan causes the most misunderstandings because it is a small sword and can be perceived as a weapon. Chaplain Dean explains that the kirpan is not a weapon but symbolizes Sikhs’ commitment to justice and human rights. Carrying the kirpan is allowed by state and municipal law as long as it is not concealed. The straightforward explanation of the religious significance of a kirpan and the laws surrounding it is a perfect example of the pragmatic approach all the videos take in explaining faith traditions.

Chaplain Dean explains that many Sikh homes have a room set aside for prayerPrayer is the vocal or silent address to the Divine. It may consist of fixed words, spontaneous words, or rest in silence with no words at all. Some forms of prayer are accompanied with specific postures or gestures, while others are not. where the holy book is kept. When responding to a call a police officer should be respectful of this room and, if possible, remove shoes upon entering. Officers should also avoid contact with the holy book. A Sikh house of worship is called a gurdwaraThe gurdwara, “the gateway of the Guru,” is the place for community gathering and worship in the Sikh tradition. The Guru is the Adi Granth, the sacred scripture of the Sikh tradition. Each center will include a chamber where the Adi Granth is kept, a... and when entering a police officer should remember four guidelines: remove your shoes, cover your head, do not smoke, and do not touch the holy book.

IslamIslam in Arabic literally means “submitting” or “submission.” One who submits or surrenders his or her will to God is called a Muslim. While the whole of God’s creation is described as being inherently Muslim, human beings must choose whether to...

The Islam video begins with a brief description of the faith calling it “a religion of peace, submission and commitment to one GodGod is a term used to refer to the Divine, the Supreme being, Transcendent deity, or Ultimate reality..” One-fifth of the world’s population is Muslim and in Chicago there are 400,000 Muslims. The largest number of Muslims in Chicago are African-American followed by Muslims from South Asia. The video emphasizes that a minority of Muslims in Chicago are Arab; there are Muslims of every color and nationality and Islam is not an ethnicity. This brief introduction helps dispel some of the misconceptions about Muslims which arose after the attacks of 9/11. The video also explains key words every officer should be familiar with such as mosqueMasjid (plural masajid) in Arabic means “place of prostration,” or the place where Muslims bow in prayer; in English, this word has become “mosque.” A masjid contains a prayer hall in which there is a mihrab or prayer niche, and a minbar or pulpit..., imamImam means “leader,” particularly the person who leads the daily ritual prayer or, more broadly, to the one who serves as a leader of the community because of his religious learning. In Shi’i Islam, it refers to one of a succession of direct descend..., Qur’an, and AllahAllah is the word for God in Arabic, used by Arabic-speaking Christians, Jews, and Muslims. According to Islam, Allah is the creator and ruler of the entire universe, the ultimate judge of all human beings, characterized by mercy and compassion. By means ....

In every video Chaplain Dean notes the day of the week when people of each faith tradition worship. This information will help officers plan non-emergency visits to houses of worship. For example Muslims pray on Friday afternoons so Chaplain Dean encourages officers to avoid the prayer period from 12 PM until 2 PM. Each video also explains what actions officers should take upon entering a worship space. In a mosque one should always remove his or her shoes. Because many non-Christian traditions have rules regarding personal contact, especially between men and women, the videos explain what sort of greetings are suitable. When meeting Muslims, shaking hands is not appropriate. Out of modesty Muslims will often avoid eye contact with a person of the opposite gender. This should not be interpreted as an indicator of guilt by officers.

The video explains that modesty is highly valued in the Islamic faith and women are expected to cover their heads with a hijabHijab means “veil” or “curtain,” referring especially to standards of modest dress for Muslim women. While there are many interpretations of the legal requirement, many Muslims agree that women should wear loose fitting clothing and expose no more... (head scarf) out of respect to GodThe term god with a small “g” is used to refer to a deity or class of deities whose power is understood to be circumscribed or localized rather than universal, or to refer to a plurality of deities.. Not all women wear the hijab, however, and police officers need to be sensitive about touching women even if a hijab is not worn. If possible women officers should question female witnesses and search female suspects. If an officer is questioning a suspect of the opposite gender they should not be alone in a room together with the door closed. During a search, if the hijab must be removed, the woman should be allowed to do this in a private place with a woman officer.

Each video attempts to dispel common misconceptions about non-Christian faiths. In the Islam video a young female doctor is shown at the hospital where she works. She explains that the hijab is not a form of oppression and that not all Muslim women are submissive. This is an example of how the videos aim to dispel common misconceptions about people of non-Christian faiths by showing them in everyday situations to which the audience can relate. In each video families are shown within their homes practicing their faith, but also participating in ordinary activities such as cooking or playing games.

JudaismJudaism is the worldview, the way of life, and the religious practice of the Jewish people, living in covenant with God and in response to Torah, the laws and ethics which guide the pattern of Jewish life. Jews today interpret their three thousand year ol...

This video begins by explaining the three main denominations of Judaism: OrthodoxIn general, orthodox means having a “correct opinion or outlook” and is a term used by people in many religions who claim authority for traditional views and forms of their religion., Conservative and Reform. This video focuses primarily on interactions with Orthodox and HasidicHasidic literally means the “pious one,” and Hasidim (pl.) are those who have developed extraordinary devotion to the spirituality of Jewish life. Originally, Hasidism referred to the movement founded in Poland in the mid-18th century by Israel Baal S... Jews because they observe Jewish law and perform rituals which may be unfamiliar to many officers.

Just as the Sikh video addresses the turban and the Islam video explains the hijab this video also addresses head coverings. Members of the Jewish community explain that police should be sensitive when asking a man to remove his yarmulkeA kippah is a headcovering, a skull cap, worn by Jewish men for worship, religious study, meals, or at all times.. Some will not object to removing it in public while others would prefer to only do it in a private place. Hasidic women will often wear a head covering such as a scarf or a wig. If it is necessary for a woman to remove her head covering it should be done in a private place with a female officer. When introducing oneself to Orthodox and Hasidic Jews, handshaking is not acceptable between people of opposite genders. As with Muslims people of the opposite gender should not be alone in the same room with the door closed.

On ShabbatShabbat or sabbath is the day of rest, the seventh day, recalling the Biblical creation narrative in which God rested from the labors of creation on the seventh day. In the Jewish tradition, the Sabbath begins at sundown on Friday and runs through sundown... (sunset on Friday until an hour after sunset on Saturday) observant Jews do not carry anything with them including a wallet or keys. If they are stopped by an officer they may not have any I.D. with them. They also will not move a car even if it is illegally parked. If the car must be moved an officer can offer to move it for them. On Shabbat observant Jews will not ride in a police car or ambulance unless it is an emergency.

BuddhismBuddhism is a multi-hued tradition of life, thought, and practice that has developed from the teaching and practice of Siddhartha Gautama (6th century BCE) who came to be called the Buddha, the awakened one. The three major streams of the tradition—Ther...

This video opens with an image of chanting Buddhist monksA monk is a man who renounces worldly life and is ordinarily a member of a monastic order or community, thereby undertaking a special commitment to study, service, asceticism, prayer, or disciplined spiritual practice. In the Buddhist tradition, fully ord... in saffron robes. Chaplain Dean says this is what many people envision when they think of Buddhists, but Buddhists are actually found in every country in the world and there are Buddhists of every race. In Chicago there are 150,000 Buddhists and 60 templesA temple is a house of worship, a sacred space housing the deity or central symbol of the tradition. The Temple in Jerusalem was the holy place of the Jewish people until its destruction by the Romans in 70 CE; now the term “temple” is used by th. Ref.... The video explains BuddhaBuddha means “awakened one” and specifically refers to Shakyamuni Buddha, also known as Siddhartha Gautama (traditional date, sixth c. BCE), the historical founder of the tradition that became known as Buddhism. All Buddhist traditions agree that ther... was a human who attained enlightenmentEnlightenment means awakening to or realizing the true nature of reality. The term is used with various nuances in the Buddhist, Jain, and Hindu traditions to express the spiritual awakening that is the goal of religious life. “The Enlightenment” also.... He is not a god. For Buddhists there is no mandatory day of worship but many temples are especially busy on Sundays.

When entering a templeA temple is a house of worship, a sacred space housing the deity or central symbol of the tradition. The Temple in Jerusalem was the holy place of the Jewish people until its destruction by the Romans in 70 CE; now the term “temple” is used by th. Ref... an officer should remove his or her shoes. Buddhist monks and nunsA nun is a woman who renounces worldly life and is ordinarily a member of a monastic order or community, thereby undertaking a special commitment to study, service, asceticism, prayer, or disciplined spiritual practice. In the Buddhist tradition, fully or... should be greeted with hands pressed together and a nod, but it is acceptable to shake hands with Buddhist lay people. Because there are Buddhists of every race and ethnic background, police need to be aware of an individual’s cultural background when they enter his or her home. For example a caucasian American-born Buddhist may wear shoes within their home, whereas a Buddhist from East Asia would not. Police should look for clues like whether there are shoes placed outside the front door. Chaplain Dean encourages officers to ask their hosts what action is appropriate in any situation where they are unsure. The members of each faith community indicate in all of the videos that they are happy to educate people who are unfamiliar with their tradition.

Hinduism“Hindu” was originally a word given by the Greeks, then the Persians, to the land and peoples beyond the Indus or “Sindhu” River. The term “Hinduism” came into common use only in the 19th century to describe a complex and dynamic pattern of li...

This video begins by explaining that Hinduism is the world’s oldest religion and that there are 80,000 Hindus in Chicago. Most, but not all, are Indian. As with the Sikhism and Islam videos, this video attempts to dispel a common misconception about the Hindu faith. A member of the Chicago Hindu community explains that Hindus are not polytheisticPolytheism is a belief in many gods. Most Pagans are polytheistic. Some are soft polytheists, believing that all gods are aspects of one greater God/dess (or sometimes aspects of two greater deities, a Goddess and a God). Other Pagans are hard polytheists...; they believe in one supreme god who has many manifestations. Most Hindu templesA Hindu temple will be called a mandir in northern parts of India or a koyil in the south. There are many styles of temples and temple-complexes, but most temples are laid out according to precise dimensions and proportions and erected to be the symbolic ... are open every day and Hindus generally do not go to a temple to hear a sermon but for darshanIn the Hindu tradition, darshan is the “auspicious sight” of a deity or even a holy person. Darshan includes both beholding the deity and receiving the gaze of the deity. (viewing of the godsThe term god with a small “g” is used to refer to a deity or class of deities whose power is understood to be circumscribed or localized rather than universal, or to refer to a plurality of deities.).

When officers enter a temple they should keep the following in mind: only priestsA priest is the leader of a religious community or congregation, specially trained and often ordained to service, who leads members of the community in the rituals and practice of shared and individual life. Many traditions have forms of priesthood.In the... are allowed to touch the statues of deities, you should not take pictures, it is not necessary to cover your head, you should always remove your shoes, and if passing something to another person try to avoid using your left hand. To greet someone press your hands together and give a slight bow. The traditional greeting is “Namaste.”

All of the videos explain that some members of these faith traditions are recent immigrants. Officers need to be aware of a individual’s cultural and religious background when interacting with him or her. For example recent immigrants and visitors from India may appear fearful of police because they are unaccustomed to seeing police carry guns. Buddhists from South East Asia or Russian Jews may be fearful of police due to the political situations in their home country. Officers should not interpret these behaviors as indicators of guilt or as signs of being uncooperative.

Security, Diversity, Respect

This video gives airport security personnel the information they need to treat passengers with respect while still performing the necessary security procedures. It addresses the appropriate way to search a Sikh man who is wearing a turban and how to respectfully search Muslim women.

A representative of the Coalition for Sikh Awareness explains that a turban is not simply a head covering but an article of faith which takes 15 to 30 minutes to put on. It is offensive to ask a man or woman to remove their turban unless a search is legally justified. If the turban must be removed for a search, or even patted down, he or she should be taken to a private area, if possible.

A representative of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago explains how to be respectful of a Muslim woman if a search is necessary. If the woman is wearing the hijab and it must be removed she should be taken to a private place when possible. A female officer should perform the search because Islamic law prohibits a Muslim woman from having her head uncovered in front of men who are not part of her family.

The video encourages officers to treat everyone equally and with respect while remaining serious about protecting security. The Sikh and Muslim representatives in the film say that as Americans they are as concerned about safety as everyone else. They do not mind security procedures as long as they are treated respectfully and not singled out by officers.


The videos have been a great success and over 50 police departments across the country have requested copies. The department is now working on creating similar videos for the many ethnic groups which live in Chicago. The video about people from East Asia is complete and a video about Latin Americans and Puerto Ricans is planned.

Kareem M. Irfan, chairman of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago says “This is not just a superficial thing. It has changed our community’s relationship with the police to the extent that people are beginning to see the Chicago Police Department as an ally rather than an opposing force.”

Due to the high volume of requests the Chicago Police Department is turning over distribution to an outside vendor. The distribution arrangement will be finalized in October 2005. Contact department for details.