"You have stripped me naked."
A policeman allegedly forcibly removed and stamped on a Sikh man’s head covering in what has been described as a religiously motivated hate crime.
It came after the man was apprehended for minor traffic offences in the West Midlands region of England on Monday, October 25, 2021.
The man had been wearing a Patka at the time. A Patka is a thin cloth that is worn like a bandana and is often worn as a casual alternative to a traditional turban.
West Midlands Police claim that the Patka was removed by PC Kashif Shafiq to check for any hidden weapons.
However, many noted that the man’s clothing wasn’t searched.
The Sikh Press Association also pointed out that the thin material would have left little space for anything to be concealed, adding that it wasn’t returned until after questioning.
It was claimed that PC Shafiq stamped on the Patka as it lay on the floor.
The incident caused widespread outrage on social media and sparked a protest outside Perry Barr Police Station on Wednesday, October 27, 2021.
In one of two videos released on Twitter by the Sikh Council UK, the victim is heard telling another officer at the protest:
“If you went back to that CCTV footage, I promise you, if that doesn’t bring a tear to your eye, I’ll be shocked.
“You know what I said when they took it off? You have stripped me naked.
“And the question is, I wasn’t even given it back until I left custody.
“I’m absolutely appalled. I was put in my cell, without my turban, seven to 10 hours.”
The victim of alleged racial abuse pleaded to the police officer last night to watch the CCTV of the incident on the 25th of October
' If the CCTV doesn't bring a tear to your eye I'll be shocked'
— Sikh Council UK (@SCUKofficial) October 28, 2021
Gurpreet Singh Anand, president of the Sikh Council UK said:
“The way that the Sikh gentleman was treated by the West Midlands Police officer in question was completely unacceptable, irrelevant of what the crime he is purported to have committed.
“There has been growing animosity between the West Midlands Police and the Sikh community in recent years.”
“The police force seems to be targeting the Sikh community, as is evident with other recent actions taken by them, such as the way they handled the West Midlands 3 extradition and the raids on homes of Sikh activists.
“For many years we have seen other minority communities report of bias in the police force and the Sikhs are now seeing the same from the West Midlands Police.
“We are not experiencing the same treatment from other police forces around the country, it appears that there is a clear problem within the West Midlands Police.”
A West Midlands Police spokesperson said:
“We are aware of social media posts accusing one of our custody officers of forcibly removing the turban from a man and stamping on it on the floor.
“The safety of people in custody and our officers is our primary concern, therefore it is sometimes necessary to search anyone who is uncooperative for weapons or anything which could cause harm, while also respecting privacy and religious practices.
“The man has since been charged with obstructing a police officer in the execution of his duty and two counts of driving a vehicle when the VRM fails to conform with regulations.
“He was released on bail to appear at Birmingham Magistrates Court on 25 November.
“A complaint has subsequently been received and is being investigated by our Professional Standards Department.”
The Sikh Council UK has written to the Chief Constable of West Midlands Police and the Crime Commissioner requesting an urgent meeting to address concerns surrounding incidents between the force and the Sikh community.
West Midlands Police released a statement on Facebook, dismissing the allegations that the Patka was forcibly removed and stamped on.
The statement also said that CCTV footage depicting the incident that is circulating on social media has been taken from an unrelated incident.
The statement read: “We are deeply concerned that a video compilation circulating on social media infers that one of the stills included shows a man having his turban forcibly removed and stamped on in Perry Barr custody suite on Monday evening.
“This is not the case.
“The author has used an image from elsewhere giving an entirely misleading version of the events. The CCTV featured in this video is not connected to this incident.
“We can confirm that a man in custody was asked to remove his Patka to be searched.
“It was removed by an officer in a private room to search for anything that could be harmful to the man or our custody officers.
“The head covering fell to the floor at one point, but was immediately retrieved and at no point was it stamped on.
“We are now examining all the CCTV surrounding our officers’ interactions with the man in custody to establish if there was any inappropriate conduct.
“We have also voluntarily referred the matter to the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC).
“We have received a complaint and therefore we cannot go into further details while these enquiries are progressing.
“We understand the religious significance of head coverings to the Sikh faith and we know this incident has caused outrage and anger to the Sikh community and the wider public but we must stress that social media speculation based on supposition is unhelpful and inflammatory.
“We continue to strive for better relationships with the communities we serve and we are determined to hold to account any officer who does not adhere to the standards of professional behaviour.