At 22, Kadra Mohamed is a newly minted cop on the beat, a community liaison officer making a courtesy call to a merchant, a time-tested neighborhood policing method. Still, this visit, and each one she makes in this St. Paul, Mn., immigrant bastion breaks new ground, says the Los Angeles Times. In March, the St. Paul Police Department hired Mohamed, its first female Somali officer, a move designed to improve the sometimes tense relations with 80,000 Somali Americans in the Twin Cities, the nation’s largest Somali community. Each time she wears her crisp blue police uniform with its thick black leather belt and handcuffs, the 5-foot-1 Mohamed also dons her hijab, the traditional head scarf worn in public by many Muslim women. Her presence has divided this Midwestern city of 290,000.
One blogger called her hiring a politically correct and potentially perilous gesture. By allowing her to wear a hijab, he wrote, the department “has placed her life on the line in more ways than one.” Some officers complain she is breaking a long-standing uniform code. The department modified the hijab with metal snaps that allow the head scarf to come off in a scuffle. But Mohamed makes no excuses. Once an aspiring lawyer, she shifted her goal to police work because of her desire to help her community. “I’m a target for those with concerns about safety,” she says. “I’m a short, black, Muslim female. Of course I stand out.” Mohamed’s hiring comes at a crucial time. The rise of such Somali street gangs as the St. Pistol Boys and Somali Outlaws has followed news reports that Somali American youths from Minnesota have been recruited to join extremist forces in Somalia, Syria and Iraq.