Brother of Bellingham Police officer charged in assault appears in court
A Bellingham Police officer has been fired after he was arrested in mid-October for allegedly beating two men with his brother outside a Blaine business.
Officer Sukhdev Dhaliwal, 32, was fired effective May 7 after allegations of misconduct were sustained during an internal investigation, according to Bellingham Police Chief David Doll.
Doll said on Tuesday he rejected the grievance filed by the Bellingham Police Guild, which represents roughly 102 commissioned officers, detectives and sergeants, meaning Dhaliwal’s termination will stand.
The guild has 14 days to pursue the matter through possible mediation. After that, the collective bargaining agreement allows for both the department and the guild to pursue binding arbitration, Doll said.
“In maintaining our community trust, it is essential that we hold our personnel to the highest standards regarding their conduct whether it occurs on or off duty. In this case, sustained findings of misconduct were found in Dhaliwal’s off-duty conduct and I determined the appropriate sanction to be termination of his employment from the department,” Doll said in a prepared statement. “We hold our personnel accountable for their actions, especially conduct that is not representative of the exceptional women and men who serve our community as peace officers.”
The Bellingham Police Guild declined to comment.
Dhaliwal has been paid a total of $43,261.80 since he was placed on paid administrative leave Oct. 20. He received assignment premiums for being bilingual, education and SWAT, according to Vanessa Blackburn, a spokeswoman for the City of Bellingham.
He also received a total of $13,399.14 for cash-outs from vacation, holiday and comp time, Doll said. Dhaliwal was placed on paid administrative leave per the Bellingham Police Guild’s collective bargaining agreement with the department.
Dhaliwal was with the Bellingham Police Department since Oct. 1, 2015, and was also a Whatcom County Jail deputy for roughly four years. He has no prior criminal record except for a driving offense from several years ago, according to court records.
Dhaliwal is facing charges of second-degree assault (strangulation), a felony, and fourth-degree assault, a gross misdemeanor. His trial is tentatively scheduled for June 11.
His brother, Jagmeet Dhaliwal, is also facing charges of second-degree assault (strangulation) and fourth-degree assault. His trial is tentatively set for June 11.
On Oct. 17, Dhaliwal and his brother, Jagmeet Dhaliwal, went to meet two men, ages 19 and 20, in Blaine at one of the men’s workplace. When the brothers arrived around 8:13 p.m., they grabbed and punched the 19-year-old man outside the business, according to Whatcom County Superior Court records.
Sukhdev and Jagmeet Dhaliwal then went inside, where they punched the 20-year-old man in the face, held him down, choked, punched and kicked him, and told him they would kill him, records state. Sukhdev Dhaliwal also yelled at the man about dating his sister, records state.
The fight was stopped by the 19-year-old and his boss, and the brothers left around 8:35 p.m.
The 20-year-old suffered a fracture near his eye, as well as severe bruising and redness around his neck, according to court documents.
Dhaliwal is one of three Bellingham Police officers in as many years to be arrested for alleged assaultive behavior. Cpl. Brooks Owen Laughlin, 33, of Everson, resigned from duty effective April 20 after he was arrested twice this year for domestic-violence related charges.
Laughlin is facing a total of 16 charges, most of them felonies related to the alleged repeated abuse of a woman since September 2016. His trial is tentatively scheduled for June 4. If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.
In fall 2016, officer Jacob Esparza, 35, was fired after he was arrested on domestic violence charges. He was already on the brink of losing his job before that, records obtained by The Bellingham Herald show. Esparza, of Lynden, pleaded guilty in June 2017 to one count of harassment (domestic violence) and was sentenced to serve 364 days in jail, with 362 suspended.
An outside independent person identified by the city's legal office is conducting an assessment of the department's specific policies that would deal with the arrests of Dhaliwal and Laughlin, and the firing of Esparza.