London: Sikh police officers in Britain will be banned from joining firearms or riot teams unless they remove their turbans and adopt a patka, according to a new
The Association of Chief Police Officers said Sikh
officers in firearms and riot units would have to adopt a
patka - a smaller piece of material - so that they could wear
bullet proof helmets.
Gurpal Virdi, co-ordinator of the Met Sikh Police
Association, said: "We are pleased that 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."
The guidance will be in force in England, Wales and
Northern Ireland and would be reviewed every two to three
There are about 2,000 Sikh police officers and staff
in the UK.
Turbans were deemed unsafe because they do not fit
under helmets and themselves offer insufficient protection.
The association rejected the notion of designing a
bullet-proof turban, but said the idea was worthy of "future
The guidance was issued after the British Sikh Police
Association requested clarification on whether their officers
could join firearms and public order units.
Last year, a Sikh police officer who was orered to
remove his turban during riot training was awarded 10,000
pounds compensation by an employment tribunal for
The sikh religion requires male followers to wear a
turban and they do not have to wear crash helmets under the
Motorcycle Crash Helmets Act 1976.
Meredydd Hughes, chief constables of South Yorkshire
and the association lead on uniformed operations, stressed
that Sikhs were not being discriminated against.
He told The Daily Telegraph: "The police service has a
legal duty to provide appropriate personal protective
equipment to staff. 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 wear a turban."
The guidelines were formulated after consultation with
a number of bodies, including the Black and Asian Police
Association and the Health and Safety Executive.