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'No barriers relating to burka' for women police officers in West Midlands

Published 10/09/2016

David Thompson of West Midlands Police said his force
David Thompson of West Midlands Police said his force "would have to consider" any such request to wear a burka.

Women police officers could be allowed to wear the burka as part of their uniform, according to the chief constable of one of the UK's largest police forces.

David Thompson of West Midlands Police said his force "would have to consider" any such request to wear the garment, which covers both the face and body.

Both the College of Policing and the National Police Chiefs' Council have said it is up to each force to determine the make-up of its officers' uniform, and set the policy on appearance.

Mr Thompson said that none of the force's officers had made a request to wear a burka.

He added it was important for the police to "reflect the community we serve".

In a statement, Mr Thompson said: "We would need to consider our own rules and cultural sensitivity.

"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."

He added: "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."

A spokesman for the force, which is one of the largest outside the Metropolitan Police Service, said 30% of the West Midlands population is black and minority ethnic (BME), while only 9% of the force's 7,000 officers were from the BME community.

It has just recruited 800 new officers, of which a third are BME.

Mr Thompson added: "What's important here is that we reflect the community we serve.

"We've already taken significant steps with a third of our current recruits from BME backgrounds but there's far more to be done."

The chief constable said the force had taken on a small number of Muslim women officers who had asked to wear the hijab, which leaves the face uncovered, in its latest intake of recruits.

The force's own uniform policy allows the wearing of turbans for Sikh officers, so long as they are of a black material, and female Muslim officers and staff "may wear hijabs".

Male Muslim officers are allowed to wear kufis, and Jewish officers a yarmulke or kippah (skull cap), including underneath their helmets or hats.

The policy goes on to state: "The wearing of other types of headwear will be dictated by cultural and religious beliefs and the hazards presented by the activity undertaken."

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