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Tuesday, 24 April, 2001, 14:25 GMT 15:25 UK
Police hope for Muslim head start
WPCs wearing hijabs
Hijabs are traditionally worn by Muslim women in public
By BBC News Online's community affairs reporter Cindi John

Muslim police officers have welcomed the Metropolitan Police's decision to introduce a traditional headscarf as a uniform option for Muslim women.

The Association of Muslim Police hopes the move will encourage into the police Muslim women who had been deterred by the prospect of not being able to cover up in public.

The scarf or hijab - which covers the head, neck and shoulders - is worn by some Muslim women in public as a sign of their modesty and faith.

Association chairman Inspector Richard Varley said a proposal for the headscarf was put to the Met commissioner Sir John Stevens in February.

Richard Varley
Richard Varley hopes more Muslim women will now join up

"We've had certainly dozens of inquires by potential Muslim female recruits but those inquiries dry up as soon as they realise they can't wear a hijab," he said.

He said the latest move sent "a wider message that Muslim values are valued within the Met whether or not the officers choose to take up the offer of a hijab".

With Muslims making up to one million of seven million Londoners there should be around 3,000 Muslim police officers rather than the 100 or so now in the force, the inspector added.

The introduction of the hijab, with the distinctive Metropolitan police black and white check pattern, follows a similar move by the Met for Sikh officers who are allowed to wear a turban on duty.
Sikh officers
Sikh officers can wear a turban instead of helmet

The new addition to the Met's uniform was also welcomed by Sir John Stevens at a conference marking the start of the second phase of the force's diversity strategy.

The strategy, 'Protect and Respect' was devised after severe criticism in a report examining the force's handling of the inquiry into the murder of a black teenager, Stephen Lawrence.

Progress

Sir John said the force had now also signed up to the Commission for Racial Equality's Leadership Challenge, which aimed to encourage organisations to play a greater role in promoting racial equality.

The commissioner said he would not be content with merely pledging support for the Challenge's aims.

"I want actively to embrace them and develop them further and I know the Metropolitan Police Authority is right there with me endeavouring to make the Met a model of diversity that other organisations would wish to emulate," he said.

Sir John said there had been good progress on race issues, but said more needed to be done to meet the Home Office target of 25% of officers from minority ethnic groups.

Leroy Logan
Leroy Logan: "More needs to be done"
The target was just over 5,000 ethnic officers, more than five times the number currently employed, he added.

Black Police Association chairman Inspector Leroy Logan agreed progress had been made on race issues.

But he said cases such as that of Iranian-born superintendent Ali Dizaei - suspended after allegations of dishonesty and attempting to pervert the course of justice - were a potential block to more ethnic minority recruits.

"We've got to make sure that those cases are reduced, make sure that high-flyers, rising stars like Ali Dizaei are not victims of the system," he said.

"We are obviously concerned that we have a proper effective investigation to make sure that all cases are resolved because that sets back recruiting the image of the organisation in so many ways and it reduces trust and confidence in the minority communities," Mr Logan added.

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09 Aug 99 | UK Politics
Drive to boost black police numbers
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