New Zealand’s national police service has added a “specially designed hijab” to its official uniform in an effort to match the demographics of the community, reduce crime and allow Muslim officers to serve while appropriately meeting their personal needs.
The hijab, a head covering worn in public by some Muslim women, was added to the official uniform register after consultations with recent police college graduate, Zeena Ali. Ali, a Muslim woman, decided to join the police force in the aftermath of the 2019 Christchurch Mosque terror attacks, in which 51 people were killed across two mass shootings.
Ali will be the first to wear the police-provided hijab.
New Zealand Police say it is vital the force appropriately reflects and represents the people it serves.
Among the 76 individuals who graduated from the Royal New Zealand Police College earlier this month, over 50% are women, while just under half have a non-European New Zealander ethnic identity. Officers with a Māori heritage, the Indigenous people of New Zealand, represent a quarter of the graduating class — despite making up 16.5% of the population.
"We need people with a range of skills, backgrounds and experience levels. Diversity is essential so that we can effectively serve the needs of New Zealand's communities now and in the future,” New Zealand Police said in a statement. "By reflecting the communities we serve and appreciating different thinking, we aim to achieve better problem-solving and results.”
In a separate August statement, New Zealand Police revealed its six fundamental values: professionalism, respect, integrity, empathy, valuing diversity and commitment to Māori and the Treaty of Waitangi, long considered New Zealand’s founding document.
The hijab follows the official introduction of a turban, a head covering worn by millions of people of Sikh faith, in 2008.
A new recruit, who enlisted following the Christchurch attacks, will become the first officer in the force’s history to wear the police-issued hijab.https://t.co/Y4nAx6VHyS— VICE World News (@VICEWorldNews) November 16, 2020
Ali hopes the introduction of the hijab encourages women from all backgrounds and religions to join the force.
"We need more Muslim women to help in the community; most of them are too scared to talk to the police and would probably shut the front door if a man turned up to talk to them," she told New Zealand Herald. "If we have more women turning up, a more diverse front line, then we can reduce more crime.
"I think that seeing it, more Muslim women will want to join as well,” she added.