Will Amsterdam’s police officers be allowed to wear headscarves?
Back in 2011, the cabinet under Rutte banned the wearing of religious symbols (like a headscarf or cross) by police officers, citing that it would undermine their neutrality. In an interview with the AD, Amsterdam Police Chief Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg stated he is now considering the option to allow re-allow such items, claiming that the current rules may deter those from non-Western backgrounds from signing up.
Although the bill is far from being passed, there is already criticism from a number of sources including the Police Union ANPV. The ANPV’s chairman Geert Priem also claims that the current police officers that come from a non-Western background do not want to be identified by their background and the reinstatement of such a law places an unwanted emphasis on cultural difference.
Religious symbols and police officers: pro’s and con’s
The case for police neutrality is, of course, central to this debate. Police officers should treat all citizens equally and be treated equally themselves after all. But in a state that preaches freedom of religion, should there be such a restriction on religious symbols within government organizations as well?
On the one hand it makes complete sense, as the lack of religious symbols is a clear sign of religious neutrality. However, ignoring for the moment that some argue it could also be seen as a dominance of atheistic and agnostic ideals, the banning of such dress is to some also a restriction of the religious freedom that the Dutch preach. It’s a question of whether it is wrong to deny federal officials the same freedoms provided civilians.
Conversely, police officers are, in their positions, primarily representatives of the state and not themselves. Not to mention that many police officers are also likely to decline wearing religious symbols anyway in lieu of their positions.
Either way, what do you think?