MINNESOTASTAN: St. Paul police cave to Muslim demands, will allow officers to wear Islamic headbags

The St. Paul Police Department is now allowing employees to wear a police-issued hijab/headbag, according to an announcement Saturday. St. Paul Police Chief Thomas Smith said he knows of only one other department in Washington, D.C., that allows the hijab in the United States. 

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SF Gate  Cities in Canada and Great Britain allow Muslim officers to wear police-issued hijabs while in uniform.  The St. Paul announcement comes in tandem with the recent hiring of their first Somali woman, Kadra Mohamed. She serves as a Community Liaison Officer.

Although the Twin Cities has the nation’s largest Somali-American population, Garaad Sahal was St. Paul’s first and remains the only sworn Somali-American police officer, joining in late 2012.

The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations praised Saturday’s announcement in a news release. “We congratulate Chief Smith and the St. Paul Police Department for creating a welcoming, inclusive environment for Muslim employees,” Executive Director Lori Saroya said. “This decision will enable more Muslim women to consider serving their community through a career in law enforcement.”

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The police department began efforts to engage with the Somali-American community which laid the groundwork for the African Immigrant Muslim Community Outreach Program in 2009.

Funded largely by a two-year federal grant, AIMCOP received $670,679 to develop mentoring programs with the Muslim and Somali communities, an athletic league and meetings at mosques and community centers to discuss crime prevention. Other groups — including the FBI, the U.S. attorney’s office and the Ramsey County sheriff’s office — are involved.

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Many of the students said they learned about the academy from leaders in their mosques and community centers, including the Minnesota Da’wah Institute on University Avenue, where St. Paul police have held monthly meetings to build relationships and trust.

Kassim Busuri, a refugee from Somalia and an administrator and education director at the Minnesota Da’wah Institute, said about 15 Muslim young people from his center participated in the academy.

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New police officers in the department receive diversity training, including information about the Somali community and Islam.

Of 576 sworn officers, about 18 percent are women, police spokesman Howie Padilla said. Nearly 70 percent of the department is white, with the next leading ethnicity Asian, followed closely by black and then Hispanic.

More than 100 officers have worked with Somali community members, Padilla said.

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