Campus News

Hijab allowed for university, city police officers

UWPD and MPD officers are permitted to wear head coverings for religious reasons, a decision that separates them from other urban departments that do not have a clear policy on the matter.

Image By: Katie Scheidt

Both UW-Madison and city police say they would permit their officers to wear hijabs while on duty, a move that sets them apart from other departments around the country that either do not allow officers to wear religious head coverings or do not have a clear policy on the matter.

UW-Madison Police Department spokesperson Marc Lovicott said the department’s policy does not “directly address the wearing of hijabs,” but allows for “uniform modifications” with the approval of the chief. UWPD Chief of Police Kristen Roman said she would permit an officer to wear the hijab for religious reasons, according to Lovicott.

Madison Police Department’s standard operating guidelines say that “scarves are allowed, as are head covers that are required for religious or medical purposes, with a Commander’s approval.” MPD spokesperson Joel DeSpain confirmed that the department is “tolerant of officers and their religious beliefs.”

Both Lovicott and DeSpain were not aware of a time the issue has come up within their departments.

Najeeha Khan, president of UW-Madison’s Muslim Students Association, called the departments’ policies “heartening.”

“Hijab is not meant to be restricting, and women who observe hijab can do so in such a large variety of ways and styles,” Khan said. “It'll be exciting to see the departments continue to broaden their embrace of different lifestyle practices as we progress into the future.”

Last year, both Canadian and Scottish authorities adopted new policies allowing officers to wear hijabs while on duty. Police departments in American cities such as New York, Washington, D.C., Atlanta and San Francisco allow officers to wear religious head coverings as well.

But a 2016 report from Fusion, a subdivision of Univision, concluded that officers employed by six of the 25 largest police departments—Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Houston, Columbus, Las Vegas and San Antonio—are not permitted to wear hijabs while on duty.

The same report said that 12 of the 25 departments do not have policies in place on the matter.

Milwaukee’s police department, the largest in Wisconsin, does not have a clear policy on religious head coverings. A spokesperson for the department said if an issue is not addressed in its standard operating procedure, it is likely dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

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