Female police officers could be allowed to wear burkas in a bid to improve diversity within the force.
West Midlands Police are considering a proposal to allow Muslim officers to wear traditional dress instead of a conventional police uniform. If the proposal were to be accepted, the force would become the first in the country to allow this.
Following the launch of a recruitment drive, Chief Constable, David Thompson said that if the issue arose he would employ officers who wear a burka. The comments come as the force is currently trying to increase the number of black and minority ethnic (BME) officers to around 30 per cent.
Speaking about the move, Thompson, said, “We would need to consider our own rules and cultural sensitivity. Clearly we don’t have any barriers relating to the burka.”
“As it stands we have not had any approaches from potential recruits asking to wear the burka, but if such an approach was made it is something we would have to consider.”
“Serving the people of the West Midlands is at the heart of what we do and I would need to carefully consider anything that could be seen as standing in the way of that relationship.”
However, the move has already been met with criticism including from MPs. Speaking to the Telegraph, Conservative MP David Davies said, “I am horrified. I am amazed it has even been suggested.”
“I understand that police want to get Muslims to join, and I welcome that.”
“But this is not the way to do it.”
“The burka is a symbol of oppression for women and not something that a modern police force should be supporting.”
The Metropolitan Police approved the wearing of a hijab over a decade ago, after a number of female Muslim officers requested permission to wear it. The force also allows Sikhs to replace their helmet with a turban.
Che Donald, diversity spokesman for the Police Federation of England and Wales said, “Forces need to be representative of the communities they serve.”
“That said any piece of uniform must be fit for purpose and not obstruct or hinder an officer in carrying out their normal duties.”
“However, ultimately the decision about uniform choices is up to individual forces.”