Key Points:

Constable Jagmohan Malhi was not only fulfilling an obligation to his religion, but a dream of his late father when he stepped out on the police beat this week.

The Nelson policeman, known to colleagues as "Jaggy", has become a pioneer by being the first officer in New Zealand to wear the newly adopted police turban.

For his past three years in the police, the 32-year-old father of two has been forced to forgo the turban on duty, even though it is considered an important part of his Sikh faith.

After shifting to New Zealand from India eight years ago, Mr Malhi shaved his facial hair to help fit in.

He also shaved his head when joining the police, when his religion dictates he should not cut his hair.

"In the back of the mind, I was not the Sikh I should be."

So when his father died last year, Mr Malhi launched his own personal campaign to have the protocols changed - and the police hierarchy agreed. "It means a lot to me," he told the Weekend Herald.

"It was my father's dream to see me in the turban and with the beard and moustache. So, it was sort of my dream after he passed away last year to get the [police] turban.

"It's a good feeling. I'm proud of what I have achieved - to become a pioneer."

So far, he has been out on the beat just twice wearing the turban.

Onlookers were surprised, particularly in Nelson where people did not see a lot of them.

"They look at you, and give another look, and their eyes widen, but it's all been good."

Police said the move brought New Zealand police into line with many other overseas forces.

"We are delighted that we have been able to help one of our officers to nurture his religious and cultural beliefs," said Nelson Bays police area commander, Inspector Brian McGurk.

Daljit Singh, spokesman for the New Zealand Sikh Society, said it was a proud moment for Sikhs in New Zealand to see the turban incorporated into the police uniform. The Sikh community saw it as paving a path for other Sikhs to consider joining the police.