May 14, 2021

State Senator Dennis Bradley Leads Senate Passage of Bill Allowing Police Officers to Wear Religious Headdresses as Part of Police Uniform and Requirement Social Media Policies Within Police Departments

Today, State Senator Dennis Bradley (D-Bridgeport), Chair of the Public Safety & Security Committee, lead discussion and senate passage of legislation that would allow police officers in Connecticut to wear traditional religious headdresses as part of a police uniform. Senate Bill 120, ‘An Act Allowing Police Officers to Wear Religious Head Coverings as Part of a Police Uniform,’ was also amended to add the requirement of social media policies for police departments in Connecticut. This bill provides equal opportunity for those who want to go into law enforcement regardless of their religious beliefs and it would better protect police departments in Connecticut.

“This does a lot of justice to the state,” said Sen. Bradley. “It touches upon what it is to be a citizen in this country. It gives anyone who desires to give back to the community and to serve the right to do so. As we move forward and in this age in the modern area we live in, it’s important to touch upon inclusivity. There should be uniformity when it comes to the use of social media both with the police department and with officers who are on and off duty.”

Under SB 120, any state or municipal police officer who follows the Sikh or another religion will be able to wear a traditional headdress associated with the religion. The officer will be able to wear a headdress, such as a hijab, as part of their uniform as long as it does not cover the face of the officer.

The hijab is a traditional head covering worn by people who practice the Muslim Religion; for women it’s a sign of modesty. It is an essential part of Sikh faith. The Sikh faith was founded in Punjab, India in 1469. For Sikhs, wearing a turban is a distinguished feature that represents honor, self-respect, courage, and a mark of respect for their Gurus. Allowing officers to wear a turban allows those who practice Muslim to be able to express their religious freedom while at their workplace.

Many police departments in the United States and the United States Military, already have policies in place to allow those who practice Sikh to wear a hijab as part of their uniform. In 2020 the United States Military Academy at West Point saw its first Sikh graduate. The New York Police Department has provided the opportunity for Sikhs to serve while wearing their religious headwear.

Connecticut is home to a Sikh community and they believe in service to their fellow citizens. A person who practices Muslim should not be discriminated against for wearing a traditional head covering. Wearing a headpiece does not mean they will be able to perform the duties and responsibilities of an officer any less.

This bill is supported by the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut (ACLU-CT). This organization strives to ensure Connecticut residents are fully able to exercise their constitutional right to freedom of religious expression. They want to ensure that everyone in Connecticut, including police employees, have the freedom to engage in religious expression by wearing religious garb at their workplaces.

Many law enforcement agencies across the country use social media to disseminate information and engage the communities they serve. To ensure that a department has a clear vision for its social media use and most effectively pursues that vision in practice, it is important to develop and regularly update social media policy and guidelines.

Under Senate Bill 120, a policy concerning social media use by law enforcement will have to be put in place. The policy will have to include guidelines regarding the use of a social media account used by a law enforcement unit and detailed responsibilities of any person employed by the law enforcement unit who will manage and approve content that is posted on the social media account. The policy will also include procedures when the unauthorized use the social media account is detected and guidelines to ensure compliance with any applicable state or federal law.

Law enforcement units will also have to display guidelines regarding content that is suitable and not suitable to post on social media pages and methods to limit indecent or obscene content on any such social media account. Officers on duty will not be allowed to use social media for personal use.

Social media can be used for a variety of purposes within a law enforcement agency. Agencies may use social media as an investigative tool, a way to increase community outreach, service development, and officer and volunteer recruitment. Because social media is a huge tool with the ability to reach a vast number of people instantly, agencies should have formal policies in place and dedicated staff to monitor accounts. For law enforcement, a social media presence usually entails having official agency accounts on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or Instagram, and because it is such a flexible tool, it is important to develop a policy that identifies how it should and should not be used.