Shall I take off my turban?

October 31, 2007

Folks, this recently came up in a discussion amongst Sergeants. It’s hypothetical of course. A Sikh man is arrested. He wears a turban. Do we take the turban away from him?

Going back to days when I did custody I think we are entitled to remove anything which a person may use to harm themselves or another. It is possible that a turban could be used to hang oneself, or injure a gaoler or custody officer. My personal view is that the turban comes off, but note the following:

Before we remove it, consider whether it is safe for the detained person to remove it. Consider what the arrest is for? If it’s OK for them to remove it, then let them remove it and hand it to you. Treat the turban with some respect. Don’t just place it on the floor outside. I would perhaps put it in the detained person’s property.

If it is unsafe for the detained person to remove it then we remove it. We may have problems if the d/p does not understand English. If this is going to be an issue make sure there is someone that speaks Punjabi in the custody suite when you need them.

The worst thing we can do is remove something and not be able to explain what is happening. It shouldn’t be that difficult to get a Punjabi speaking individual somewhere in the Force at the required time.

In handling the Turban consider also giving the detained person something to cover their head. Normally a handkerchief type clots is worn under the turban. If the d/p is violent, depressed, an illegal immigrant, mentally ill, or anyone likely to use the item to injure themselves or me, then the turban has to come off. If any of these things apply make sure you write this down in the custody record.



  1. Yes that is a difficult decision, because they never take their turbans off because of religious reasons. But they could be hiding something under it and they could not only harm themselves but others as well. You never know what might be hiding underneath the turban.

  2. I say it comes off but with respect as you rightly point out. Every prisoner has to be judged on his or her behaviour and what they have been arrested for. You can imagine if you were the custody sergeant and a prisoner killed himself with the said item. If we start to make exceptions here there will be problems.

  3. Southwest, you are absolutely correct. My view is that a person’s health and safety take precedence over religion, and if we can document this, and we genuinely feel we are doing the right thing without malice, then we can’t go wrong.

    The key is not believing that every Sikh will have a weapon or drugs under their turban, but treating people with a bit of genuinity and respect and not fearing being honest with people. It’s that fear that stops us. Southwest dude, a Sikh woman won’t be wearing a turban!

  4. I know mate, I was just saying every prisoner should be judged my their behaviour, male or female, regardless of religion. But good point :0)

  5. Southwest dude you mamake me smile. It’s a good job we can laugh out loud together my freind.

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