Discrimination officer Dutch police: Officers should be allowed to wear cross or hijab


Western Europe


In countries like the United Kingdom, police officers are allowed to wear a headscarf. Photo jointhepolice.co.uk

The discrimination officer from the Dutch police thinks that law enforcement officers should be allowed to wear religious symbols, such as a headscarf or a cross. This is currently forbidden.

The police force should be a safe workplace for all sorts of people, discrimination officer Johan van Renswoude says in an interview with the Dutch newspaper NRC. In his function as discrimination officer, he has to work on a safe work climate for all police officers. “In our current super diverse and strongly polarised society, uniformity does no longer signal neutrality", he notices. Many people see the police as a biased extension of the government."

Instead, diversity is a better way to communicate the neutrality of the police force, Van Renswoude thinks. "That way, you show that you, as law enforcement, are there for everyone."


Allowing police officers to wear religious symbols and clothing, such as a headscarf, is a sensitive issue. The leadership of the police force says to hold onto the official view on the matter. Yet, it adds that there is an internal discussion on what "neutrality means for us", a spokesperson says to NRC. "Does visibly wearing a religious symbol, like a headscarf, kippah or cross, hinder neutrality, or will it lead to a better connection to society? To find an answer to this complicated question, a specialised network is doing research."

Wearing a headscarf or a kippah only leads to more aggression against police officers, Jan Struijs, president of the Police Union, says to the Dutch broadcast NOS. Instead, he pleads for more attention to making the police organisation inclusive and safe. "That is already complicated enough."


The Dutch Justice Minister stated in March that she objected to allowing religious elements to be worn by law enforcement officers. "The legitimacy of the actions of the police and its neutrality is stressed, among other things, by not expressing any stance in religious convictions."

Last month, the European Court of Justice decided that organisations can ban headscarves from the workplace as long as they also refuse crosses, kippahs, and other religious symbols, CNE.news reported. In that case, such a ban would not be discriminatory, according to the European judges.



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