NEWARK, NJ – It’s a small change, but a big message, Newark officials say.

On Thursday, the Newark Police Department announced that it would now allow its officers to wear a hijab, a religious head covering traditionally adopted by Muslim women.

Public safety director Brian O’Hara said at a news conference on Washington Street the decision sends a message that the department values ​​and respects its officials with Muslim backgrounds.

“The Newark Police Department is 80 percent black and brown, and 22 percent of our officers are women,” O’Hara said. “This change, which enables our Muslim officers to wear the hijab in uniform, is appropriate and timely.”

O’Hara noted that the department has made other efforts to promote religious tolerance. For example, the city is the first in the nation to allow its police officers to wear beards for religious reasons.

According to a statement by city officials:

“According to the revised uniform regulation, the hijabs are blue, which is in line with the Newark Police-approved uniform shirt. For safety reasons, the headgear must be easily removable or breakable with Velcro or magnetic closures that release easily. It will also fit under the Division-regulated headgear.”

Mayor Ras Baraka and members of the Newark denomination were there on Thursday to support the new policy.

“The vision to achieve this is correct,” said Baraka. “I think it has incredible significance that it takes place during Ramadan, a month of sacrifice and prayer.”

“Being able to recognize people’s religion, how they practice it, and enable them to do so safely and appropriately on site speaks volumes about where we are going as a department and where we are going as a city.” Said Baraka.