Massey University College of Creative Arts 25 NZ Police Operational Hijab

  • Ringatoi Matua / Design Directors
    Deb Cumming, Nina Weaver
  • Ngā Kaimahi / Team Members
    Leonie Smiley (Advisory Officer: Deployable Assets), Inspector Braydon Lenihan (Operations Manager Response Capability), Naila Hassan (District Commander Waitemata), Inspector Geoff Logan (Capability Team Manager), Senior Sergeant Krista Kite, Frontline officer Zeena Ali
  • Kaitautoko / Contributors
    Te Paea Hoori: Digital technical visualisation and CAD for manufacture, Dereck de Souza: Digital technical visualisation and CAD for manufacture, Robyn Conner: CAD for manufacture, Jane Wilcox: Photographer for prototypes:

The Operational Hijab design was developed to meet the needs of Muslim New Zealand Police women to promote positive action for respect and identity within the organisation. The wearing and visual identification of the hijab is important to reflect inclusivity and community diversity while providing a safe, operational uniform component. These aims align with the New Zealand Police’s focus on the leadership, culture and capability of their organisation to provide an environment where people are safe, valued, and supported to deliver services to communities.

A thorough, 16-month design research and development process was carried out resulting in operational hijabs being available for Muslim women police officers since November 2020. Methodology involved a user-centred design approach. In-depth interviews through focus groups with the organisation and Muslim communities throughout the country; Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, contributed to a greater understanding of the diverse cultural needs in wearing the hijab.

New Zealand Police provided considerable consultation on performance requirements throughout the development process. Rigorous wear testing, including a 4-month period at the National Police College, assessed Physical Robustness and Safety measures, Fit and Movement, Fabric Qualities and Comfort of Wear Under Sustained Activities and Circumstances; cognitive training, self-defence, physical fitness, house breech training, use of firearms and tasers, and defensive driving.

Performance needs and the regulatory uniform system identified specific design requirements that were met:
• Contoured fit providing head movement for optimal vision and minimal grab.
• Provision for wear under regulation cap and other operational headwear.
• Shaped lower section to allow tucking into shirt neckline without interference with body armour and outer garments.
• Quick release fastening to offer safety.
• Technical material providing comfort for duration of wear (stretch, moisture wicking and temperature control) and easy-care properties.
• Robust and stable construction for performance.
• Facility for operational communication devices.
• Visual consistency and identification with uniform.

The hijab prototype and production specifications met formal Police approval requirements with extensive peer review and compliance. Importantly, appreciative responses from New Zealand’s first Hijab wearing police woman Constable Zeena Ali, validated the design and inclusive motivations.

"It feels great to be able to go out and show the New Zealand Police uniform hijab because I was able to take part in the design process. Having a police-branded hijab means women, who may not have previously considered policing can do so now. It’s great how the Police incorporated my religion and culture. I am thrilled the Police went out of their way to make sure the hijab I have on meets health and safety requirements as well as my own personal needs.”

Media releases have generated much interest nationally and internationally. The hijab design has since been manufactured for other national organisations; St John Ambulance and Corrections. The product was trialled and passed Health and Safety testing by Leicestershire Police with strong interest from the Home Office, United Kingdom, for wider national frontline services. The hijab design is currently being negotiated for licence to the Home Office UK for manufacture and distribution.