Houston Police Department’s First Lion Dance Team of 16 Asian-American Officers Makes Lunar New Year Debut

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) — A new lion dance team will make its Houston debut this Lunar New Year season. But what makes this group unique is that it is made up of 16 Asian-American officers from the Houston Police Department.

Lt. Jonathan Lui said the idea originally came from the assistant. Chief Ban Tien, who was modeled after the San Francisco Police Department. He learned that they have had their own company for more than 30 years while attending the Asian National Peace Officers Association Conference in August.

“We have such a large Asian community here in Houston, and we thought it would be a great relational policing tool for everyone to use. This dance alone allows us to touch multiple people at once. So it shows that the officers are very friendly and involved in the community,” said Lui.

Lui shared that watching the lion dance brings back childhood memories of when his family owned a local restaurant in Chinatown. He remembers the emotions he felt when a group performed outdoors.

“I was suddenly moved to see the performance, the stunts, the energy with the drums and the beautiful movements. It made me and everyone else smile,” he said.

Many of these team members follow the lead of Sgt. Alex Chan, who has 28 years of experience in lion dance and martial arts. Little did he know that the experience would one day clash with his career in law enforcement.

“We see a lot of smiling faces, especially children and parents. It brings us joy, because it’s like Christmas. When we look through the lion’s head, all we see is everyone laughing, smiling, having a good time.” Chan said.

All of these officers volunteer their own time to be part of HPD’s first lion dance team, rehearsing at least once a week at the Chinese Community Center since September.

Their uniforms and equipment have been made possible by a grant from the Southwest Management District, an organization that has met monthly with HPD to help reduce crime and improve safety in the area.

“We never thought of police officers doing a lion dance. But it helps fuel the excitement of the program. We envisioned this would be a great way to support and promote our district throughout the city of Houston,” said David Peters, president of the Southwestern Administrative District committee.

HPD’s lion dance team performed their first performance Tuesday at a senior center in southwest Houston. As they prepare for more appearances in the community, they hope that this team will continue to grow and incorporate more techniques in the future.

“I just want the public to know that HPD truly cares about the community. We are always thinking of innovative ways to interact with everyone. We are people too and we understand that you are people. Events and groups like this together can really bond and build trust,” Lui said.

“It’s been a great experience and builds camaraderie with our officers,” he added. “They all come from different seasons. So, it gives us time to break bread and talk to each other.”

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