West Yorkshire Police, which already allowed female officers to wear the hijab, or headscarf, has developed the alternative uniform as it tries to make its workforce more representative of the communities it serves.
Assistant Chief Constable Angela Williams said: “For the last month we have been trialling a new uniform for women which is designed not to show the female form. This was suggested by a Muslim female officer and was designed by our Clothing Manager in conjunction with the officer.
“The tunic is a looser and longer fit, and has full sleeves.
“This has been well-received from officers in the force and we have now made further supplies of this uniform for other officers to trial it if they wish.
“PC Firzana Ahmed, who works in Bradford, has been trialling it and has had some really positive feedback from the local community.
“I hope this uniform will encourage people from underrepresented groups to consider a career in policing if they had previously been put off joining the force due to the uniform, and we are open to suggestions from all communities on how our uniform can be styled to better suit their needs.”
Members of the West Yorkshire Police and Crime Panel had quizzed police chiefs on Friday about what they were doing to boost the number of black and minority ethnic (BAME) staff members.
Chief Constable Dee Collins said for some women, concerns about the existing uniform’s design could be preventing them from signing up for the force.
Panel member Roger Grasby said the force had seen some success in boosting the number of staff who were female, disabled or lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) but “less so with BAME”.
The proportion of its workforce from a BAME background increased marginally from five per cent in 2015 to 5.6 per cent this year.
Mr Grasby asked whether they had done an in-depth analysis of the recruitment process, to see at what point people from non-white backgrounds were failing to progress to the next stage of a job application, “to establish whether there is any unconscious bias”.
Ms Collins said they were developing mentoring programmes to help more people from BAME backgrounds to complete the application forms, saying they tended to go on to do well at interview.
She said: “Is it a confidence issue? Is it a trust issue? Possibly around things as simple as uniform.”
Ms Collins said they had met with the Muslim Women’s Council in Bradford and “showed them a redesign of the uniform”.
She added: “We are absolutely all over this. I am absolutely determined we will continue to improve these figures. We need to, we absolutely need to.”