ONUMBA.COM, USA – Somali immigrant Ismahan Isse loves Columbus. Isse is part of a sprawling Somali community that is second largest in the nation, behind only Minneapolis-St Paul metropolis. She wants to serve the city as a police officer. And the good thing about Isse wanting to become a cop is that it will help Mayor Michael Coleman achieve his goal of creating a force that is as diverse as the city. But for Isse and Coleman, there’s one little problem. Isse is a Muslim woman, and with that comes a smorgasbord of requirements imposed by her Islamic faith, including the fiercely forbidden practice of not going out in public without wearing head-scarf, also called hijab. Unfortunately, that iron-clad religious ukase not too long ago collided head-on with the decision by Columbus Police Chief Kim Jacobs to ban women on the force from wearing head-scarf while on duty or training. While Coleman stands with Jacobs concerning her decision, he also recognizes the problem of lack of diversity bedeviling the force, which explains why he is pushing efforts to ensure that his administration is reaching out and encouraging all residents of the city to join the force. “I’ve said this to our chief and safety director, to step up our efforts in this area,” said Coleman in a recent interview, adding, “I strongly believe that our police force needs to be reflective of every corner of our city.”
Currently, the police force is nowhere near that level of reflection, but the mayor’s intention clearly underscores acknowledgement of the problem and more importantly the mission of his administration to solve it, mindful of how diverse the city has become over the years lacking adequate representation on the police force.