Calgary police dress code allows hijabs, but so far no officers have chosen to wear one

The Calgary Police Service says its has allowed hijabs as part of its official uniform for the past year and a half, but so far no officers have chosen to wear one.

Tear-away design reduces choking hazard during physical struggle

Regimental Sgt. Maj. Rob Patterson of the Calgary Police Service, who oversees officers' dress code, holds up a specially-designed hijab that can be worn as part of the uniform, although no officers have chosen to do so yet. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

The Calgary Police Service says it has allowed hijabs as part of its official uniform for the past year and a half, but so far no officers have chosen to wear one.

"But we felt it was best to be prepared for that in advance, so they felt that they were a welcome member of the service," said Regimental Sgt. Maj. Rob Patterson, who is in charge of monitoring dress code.

Patterson said the only concern was the potential risk that, in a physical confrontation, a head covering could be used against an officer to choke her, but that was solved by a special design for police-specific hijabs.

Working with the Edmonton Police Service, who approved hijabs as part of their officers' uniforms in 2013, Calgary police came up with a special type of hijab that's secured by a plastic snap that gives way under stress.

"If a force were to be applied against the member, the hijab would break away and the member would be safe," Patterson said.

Specially designed hijabs for Calgary police have plastic snaps that allow the head coverings to break away to prevent them from becoming choking hazards in the event of a physical struggle. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

Toronto police officers can also wear hijabs as part of their uniforms and the RCMP revealed this week that the Muslim head coverings have also been allowed as part of Mounties' official dress codes.

Sikh members of the RCMP have been allowed to wear turbans as part of their uniforms since the early 1990s.

Patterson said the Calgary Police Service was among the first to allow turbans for its members as well.

"I think it's very important that a member's spiritual or cultural backgrounds do not prohibit them from becoming a police officer," he said.

The issue of female-specific religious clothing has come to the fore internationally recently as France has begun enforcing a controversial "burkini ban" on Muslim women at beaches.

The French laws prohibit a particular type of swim attire that some Muslim women choose to wear that covers their arms, legs and heads, but critics have noted similar types of ocean wear such as wetsuits and scuba gear are still permitted.

Photos of uniformed officers who appear to be forcing a woman to disrobe on a French beach also emerged this week, along with other, similar cases reported in French media, stirring questions about the appropriateness and legality of the ban.

With files from Evelyne Asselin