CAIRO – In a bid to encourage more Muslim women to join their forces, Police Scotland has announced plans to introduce hijab as part of its uniform, accommodating Muslims in the society.
“This year, it’s now 101 years since the first woman joined policing in Scotland,” Ch Insp Ann Bell of Police Scotland told BBC on Tuesday, June 7.
“Police Scotland are really keen to encourage more women to come and be police officers.”
Police Scotland figures showed that there were 127 applications from black, Asian and ethnic minority candidates in 2015-16. That was just 2.6% of the total number applying to work for the force.
In a briefing to the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), Police Scotland said it would need to recruit an additional 650 ethnic minority candidates to reflect the 4 per cent of those from black and Asian backgrounds in society as a whole, something it described as currently “unachievable”.
In a bid to increase female Muslim officers, a headscarf has been “sourced and tested” and will be presented to a uniform standards working group for consideration.
The hijab is one of several measures aimed at breaking down “unnecessary barriers” for applications from Asian and black candidates.
The Metropolitan Police in London approved a uniform hijab more than 10 years ago.
“Really this is just another tool in our tool kit to encourage women from communities that perhaps haven’t seen policing as a career option previously to now start to think about that,” Bell added.
The new plan was supported as a key solution to the under-representation problem.
Peter Blair, head of resource management at the force, said: “Police Scotland is committed to working with communities to encourage under-represented groups to consider policing as a career.
“Part of this involves removing unnecessary barriers, which include considerations about the officers’ uniform. As a result, work has been undertaken to source a uniform hijab. Such a hijab is worn by many officers in police forces in England and across the world and Police Scotland is keen to replicate this good practice.”
Fahad Bashir, chair of the Scottish Police Muslim Association (SPMA), said the creation of a Police Scotland hijab was a “step in the right direction”.
“It’s not just about the hijab, but any religious headwear. It’s a productive thing on behalf of Police Scotland to make the organization be seen to be inclusive,” he said.
“From SPMA’s point of view, we’re fully supportive.
“Under-representation is an issue Police Scotland is trying to address. I couldn’t give you a definitive answer as to why it’s an issue. It’s not just the Muslim community, but in different communities across Scotland there will be cultural barriers to joining certain organizations. But we’re looking to see how we can break down those barriers.”
Brian Docherty, chairman of the Scottish Police Federation, added: “Anything that can help increase diversity within the service is surely to be welcomed and I don’t see why anyone would have any problem with that.”