A Dutch security warden wearing a helmet in this case, Source: Gerard Stolk on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0 DEED)

Amsterdam to let security wardens wear headscarves

Amsterdam to let security wardens wear headscarves

Known as ‘BOAs’ in Dutch, these people have some of the authority of police officers

The Amsterdam City Council has taken the decision to allow security wardens the right to wear religious headscarves if they wish to. However, it has not been announced when the new right will enter into effect.

The wardens in question, known as ‘BOAs’ (abbreviation from buitengewoon opsporingsambtenaar) are special investigative officers, who are not police officers technically but do have some of the powers of the latter.

BOAs may arrest suspects, check someone's identity, draw up reports and issue fines. A small percentage of them may also carry pepper spray and a small truncheon. Their main duty is to maintain public order in the urban space and deal with minor offences, such as parking and truancy, as a way of freeing up the hands of the Dutch Police to deal with more serious crimes.

Expanding but still controversial policy

The local policy of allowing security wardens to express their religiosity through their choice of clothing, however, has not met with approval by the national government. Justice Minister Dilan Yesilgöz is opposed to the move and says that wardens in uniform should be subject to the same rules as the police, where neutrality is paramount. She even proposes amending the legislation to include a specific list of items that these officers can and cannot wear.

Actually, Amsterdam is not the first Dutch city to allow this. It follows in the footsteps of Utrecht, Tilburg and Arnhem. Does this point to a widening rift between local and national authorities on the issue?

According to Dutch mayor Femke Halsema, relaxing the rules on the wearing of religious symbols is a welcome step because it paves the way to this for all civil servants.

In her opinion, according to Dutch News, all civil servants can do their jobs professionally regardless of their religious orientation.



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