The apology from officer Robert Buth came after a photo of him in a jilbaab form of the traditional garment, which includes a head covering and tunic, was posted on Twitter several weeks ago and drew criticism from Somali and Muslim community members who learned of it last weekend, the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune reported.
"I apologize to anyone who may have been offended by the recently publicized photo, which showed me at a private Halloween party on my personal time," Buth said. "I sincerely regret that the image, which was never intended to become public, may have been viewed to be insensitive to the Muslim community.
"I am proud to be a St. Paul police officer. I have enjoyed working with all of our diverse communities and look forward to working to repairing any damage which may have been caused."
Mukhtar Ibrahim, a former St. Paul resident now working as a journalist in Washington, sent a tweet about the photo to the Police Department Sunday, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported. The photo shows Buth sporting the garment with a Target store nameplate.
"Can u pls verify if this man mocking Somali women employees at Target is one of your officers?" he asked.
Police Chief Thomas Smith said Monday he ordered an immediate investigation.
Lori Saroya, head of the Council on American-Islamic Relations' Minnesota chapter, suggested the officer needs diversity training.
"It seems like a silly, unprofessional incident that happened," she said. "We're confident the St. Paul Police Department will handle it appropriately. I don't think he did it to be offensive or mean-spirited. It just seems to be ignorance."
Target said the photo was not taken at one of its stores. Molly Snyder, a spokeswoman, said the police officer in the photo had worked as an off-duty security guard for the retailer's University Avenue store, which is in a neighborhood with a large Muslim population.
Snyder said security officers do not work directly for Target. She said the company was investigating the incident.