From The Telegraph U.K.
Sikh police banned from joining firearms teams wearing turbans
Sikh police officers will be banned from allowed to join firearms or riot teams unless they remove their turbans, under new police guidance.
The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) announced Sikh officers serving in the units would have to ditch the traditional head covering in favour of a patka – a smaller piece of material – in order to wear bulletproof helmets.
The turbans were deemed ”unsafe” because they cannot fit under the protective headgear and do not themselves offer sufficient protection.
ACPO rejected the notion of designing a special bullet proof turban made from ballistic material, but said such equipment was worthy of ”future exploration”.
The guidance was issued after the British Sikh Police Association (BSPA) requested clarification on whether their officers could join firearms and public order units.
Last year a Sikh police officer ordered to remove his turban during riot training was awarded £10,000 compensation for discrimination and harassment by an employment tribunal.
The Sikh religion requires male followers to wear the turban and they do not have to wear crash helmets under the Motorcycle Crash Helmets Act 1976.
Gurpal Virdi, co-ordinator of the Met Sikh Police Association, said he was pleased to see ACPO addressing the issue.
He said: ”We are pleased there is now guidance to provide clarity to Sikh police officers who wear turbans in respect of firearm and public order duties.
”It will ensure Sikh officers are treated with dignity and respect, both in the Met and nationally.”
The guidance will affect all forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and be reviewed every two to three years.
There are around 2,000 Sikh police officers and staff in the UK.
Meredydd Hughes, chief constable of South Yorkshire Police and ACPO lead on uniformed operations, stressed the ban did not mean Sikhs were being discriminated against.
He said: ”’The police service has a legal duty to consider the health and safety of staff and provide appropriate personal protective equipment to staff who are placed in high-risk situations.
”Officers who volunteer for firearms duties or higher-level public order duties must wear standard police-issue protective helmets to control specific risks associated with these duties.
”There is, however, an option for Sikh officers who wear a turban to wear a patka under specialist helmets. This is a matter of choice for the police officer.
”Sikh officers will not be discriminated against if they choose not to perform firearms or higher-level public order duties due to their desire to observe the wearing of a turban.
”This guidance exists to balance the needs of the police service with the needs of Sikh police officers who wear a turban.”
The ACPO guidelines were formulated following consultation with a number of bodies including the Black and Asian Police Association, the Ministry of Defence and the Health and Safety Executive.
Officials also sent a confidential anonymous online survey to 400 Sikh police officers, to which more than 300 replied.