Kids Corner


To Serve & Protect





On August 5, 2012 at 10:25 a.m., while undergoing my normal patrols as a lieutenant with the Oak Creek Police Department, I responded to a call that would change my life forever. That call gave me new perspective on the many diverse cultures in the United States and the terrible hate and anger that is often directed at them.

I was called to respond to a disturbance at our local gurdwara, and I was the first officer to arrive. I found an active shooter situation, with the perpetrator -- a self-avowed white supremacist -- intent on killing the innocent and peaceful individuals worshiping there.

In the ensuing minutes, the shooter murdered six Sikh-Americans and injured many others. I was shot 15 times.

That day was a turning point for me -- opening my eyes to the Sikh American community and the struggle it faces.

After my recovery, I committed to sharing this story with fellow officers and other groups across the United States, hoping to spread a message that no matter your race, religion or background, we are all part of the American community. I also felt called to educate people on Sikhism, the fifth largest religion in the world and one that remains largely unknown in the United States.

Sikhs, despite what might appear to be differences on the surface, including the fact that many wear a turban, have the same core principles and values that informed and guided those who built our country. Through my interactions with the Sikh community in Oak Creek and beyond, I have found it to be made up of people who exemplify all the tenets of the American dream -- particularly a commitment to hard work and continuous service to their community.

Unfortunately, these facts about the Sikh community are not known by most, which has led to a number of hate crimes directed at members of the Sikh community, including children.

That is why I am so happy to see the launch of a new national campaign that is aimed at sharing the Sikh faith and educating others about the core tenets of the religion. The “We Are Sikhs” effort from the National Sikh Campaign is aimed at bringing attention to Sikhs and Sikhism to those who are not familiar with the religion.

Interacting with Sikhs firsthand has shown me that this educational campaign, pushing Sikhs into the mainstream, will result in better treatment and understanding of these proud Americans. Sikhs are good people who are misunderstood.

As I have spent more time with Sikhs over the years, one comment that always has stuck with me is how they view what their turban symbolizes: to serve and protect. As a former police officer, that idea is something that I felt every time I put on the uniform -- a desire to make my community a better place -- and it is clear that Sikhs believe the same.

Sikhs wear the turban in order to demonstrate their commitment to equality, and to serving the community, especially those most in need. A Sikh turban is a symbol of peace, not hate.

From the Sikh veterans and teachers to business and community leaders that I have met, I always have been impressed by their commitment to improving their neighborhoods and communities. No matter if I was attending a community event or stopping by for a meal at their gurdwara, I know Sikhs always have an open door to those less fortunate, or are just curious to learn more about their religion.

While many in the United States can fall into what is familiar in their communities -- the same book club, the same restaurants or the same social group -- I have learned that it is important to try to meet those you may think are different. As the old axiom goes, you should not judge a book by its cover, and we cannot judge those around us by their appearance or religion.

My life was forever changed by the shooting at the Sikh gurdwara in Wisconsin, and I am grateful that I got to develop a better understanding of the Sikh community. I hope others will take the opportunity to do the same.

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Brian Murphy is a former police lieutenant who responded to the 2012 shooting at the gurdwara in Oak Creek.

[Courtesy: Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel. Edited for]
May 27, 2017

Conversation about this article

1: Sunny Grewal (Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada), May 28, 2017, 12:41 AM.

I would like to start this comment by saying that Officer Brian Murphy is a great human being, and I am incredibly happy that he is doing so well. I would like to next say that there is a difference between what this man considers to be the meaning of "serve and protect" compared to a certain ex police officer who mercifully died in Delhi yesterday.

2: Arjan Singh (USA), May 29, 2017, 5:17 PM.

A thousand 'Thank You's to Brian Murphy. The entire Sikh history is written in bloodshed, torture and atrocities by those who resent us for our universal beliefs and those who chose to misunderstand us due to their own ignorance. Having lived in both India and USA, I want to assure non-Sikh readers that most Sikhs have more faith in the American justice system and its people than the corrupt Indian judiciary. Brian Murphy's actions are in direct contrast with those of the corrupt and criminal KPS Gill of the Indian Police Service who used the police infrastructure to murder tens of thousands of innocent Sikh men and women. We are in awe of Brian Murphy’s courage and fearless leadership. This kind of leadership is scarce in today’s world.

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