In a move that will change a 33 year tradition, Hertfordshire Constabulary has developed its dress code and the police ‘patrol flat cap’ will now be regarded as gender neutral option for male and female officers, and Police Community Support Officers*(PCSOs).
The change, which was introduced at the start of May (2018), will mean female officers will no longer have to wear the gender specific ‘bowler hat’.
Since women began to join the police service at the start of the 20th century, there has been a difference in the uniform and headgear worn by male and female officers.
As the years progressed male and female police uniforms became largely indistinguishable, apart from the bowler hat which was introduced for female police officers to wear in 1985.
Male police officers have continued to wear the traditional custodian helmet since it was introduced in the 1860s, or patrol flat cap, depending on the policing activities they are performing.
The idea to introduce the patrol cap as a viable gender neutral option was suggested to senior officers by the Herts Police LGBT+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) Network, who recognised that police headgear is the last item of uniform that remains gender specific.
The Network is the Constabulary’s support group which exists to support all staff and officers on LGBT matters, whether they are personal or operational.
Chief Superintendent Matthew Nicholls, Force Lead for Sexual Orientation and Sexual Identity, said: “An officer brought the issue to our attention when they approached the Network and expressed they felt uncomfortable being defined as female through wearing the gender specific bowler hat.
“The patrol cap is a viable gender neutral option as it is worn by both sexes in other forces and even our own cadet force.
We felt it was an important subject to consider as many officers and police staff may appreciate having the choice if they either do not define themselves with a particular sex, may be about to go through the transition process or even just prefer to have the option to wear the patrol cap instead.
We are delighted that once the idea was raised with the Constabulary’s executive team, they agreed that officers should have a choice.”
Since the start of May, female officers who would rather wear the patrol flat cap will be able to approach the Constabulary’s uniform stores to request the headgear.
Those opting to wear the patrol cap will be able to do so for the majority of their duties. However when it is operationally necessary – such as during public order events – for health and safety reasons, officers will be required to wear more protective headgear that offers a stronger, more reinforced design.
Deputy Chief Constable Michelle Dunn, said: “Providing an inclusive work environment for officers and staff is very important to the Constabulary. After the subject was brought to our attention we reflected on our current dress code and decided it did indeed need updating.
“Every staff member and officer should feel they have the right to be their authentic selves in the workplace and we are delighted to be making this change in Hertfordshire.”
David Lloyd, Police and Crime Commissioner for Hertfordshire said: “I welcome the additional choice for our officers in the uniform they wear. We must ensure police officers and staff represent the whole community and having neutral headwear is more inclusive to all parts of society.”
*All other staff that wear uniform and headgear including cadets, volunteers and Special Constables will also have the choice to wear the patrol flat cap.