The St. Paul Police Department announced Saturday morning that it has approved the option for employees to wear a police-issued hijab headscarf.
The statement comes in tandem with hiring their first Somali woman this week, Kadra Mohamed, who serves as a Community Liaison Officer — marking two watershed moments for the department.
St. Paul joins at least one department in Washington D.C. as the only departments in the U.S. to allow the hijab, according to St. Paul Police Chief Thomas Smith.
Cities in Canada and in Great Britain allow Muslim officers to wear police-issued hijabs while in uniform.
Although the Twin Cities has the nation’s largest Somali-American population, Garaad Sahal was St. Paul’s first and is still the only sworn Somali-American police officer, joining in late 2012.
As a part of St. Paul police’s commitment to establishing and bolstering relationships within the Twin Cities’ Somali community, 23 kids and young adults, most of whom have East African origins, were recognized at a graduation ceremony at the police’s Western District building for completing a month-long East African Junior Police academy.
The St. Paul Police Department regularly holds citizen academies, including for youth, but this was the first one geared toward East African youth.
Over the course of four Saturdays in February, police showed youth, ranging in age from 14 to 22, what it’s like to be a police officer. Some of the activities included watching a bomb squad demonstration, learning self-defensive tactics, viewing holding cells for juveniles and even shooting a Firearms Training Simulator (FATS) machine in the Ramsey County Law Enforcement Center. Police hope to bridge cultural gaps, and recruit them, Cmdr. Matt Toupal said.
“We need to have a police department that reflects the community in which we serve,” Toupal said. “It is very true that we need representation in this department.”