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NYPD issues beard ban with exemptions for religious, health reasons

The new policy is meant “to ensure that all uniformed members of the service reflect the department’s high standards for professionalism,” a NYPD spokesperson said


NYPD Transit officers patrol the BD Line looking for a serial stabber Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024 in Manhattan. (Barry Williams for New York Daily News)

Barry Williams for New York/TNS

By Rocco Parascandola
New York Daily News

NEW YORK — Hair today, gone tomorrow.

The NYPD is going back to its clean-cut ways, banning beards just four years after it decided to allow them.

The rule, which follows a recent crackdown on sloppily-dressed cops, does not apply to undercover officers or to those who have been granted religious or medical exemptions.

The new edict was detailed in a May 3 internal order, called “Facial Hair Policy,” and applies to all police officers, school safety agents and traffic enforcement agents.

It’s set to take effect June 17 and was issued “to ensure that all uniformed members of the service reflect the department’s high standards for professionalism,” a NYPD spokesperson said.

The department relaxed its facial hair rules in 2020, two years after a settlement was made in a class-action lawsuit filed by a Muslim cop.

Join Gordon Graham as he discusses the significance of professional attire in law enforcement and its impact on public perception and officer safety. This video offers practical advice on maintaining a neat and appropriate appearance, adhering to departmental standards and the implications of an officer’s attire in different policing contexts.

Officer Masood Syed, a Sunni Muslim who had been suspended for refusing to trim his one-inch beard to 1 mm. in length, the maximum allowed by the department, argued the facial hair rules were unconstitutional.

The Police Benevolent Association noted Thursday that the difficulty in adjudicating fairly all those who apply for a religious or medical exemption “was one of the reasons the department changed the policy to allow beards without an exemption.

“Since the Department has chosen to go back to the previous approach,” the union added, “the PBA is monitoring to ensure that the process is being administered fairly and the Department is adhering with all terms of the 2018 settlement.”

The medical exemption typically involves Black officers affected with pseudofolliculitis barbae, a skin condition in which beard hairs curve back and penetrate the skin, making shaving painful. In such cases, beards can be a half-inch long, the NYPD says.

The same 1/2-inch rule applies for those who get a religious exemption, though observant officers can ask to grow their beards longer.

The new internal order also reminds officers and agents that mustaches and sideburns — a standard since the department was founded in 1845 — are still allowed. But no staches “extending beyond [or] drooping below corners of mouth” and no sideburns “extending below bottom of earlobe” are allowed, according to the order.

Chinstrap and designer beards — those that include names, patterns or logos — are still a no-no, as are goatees.

Top cop Edward Caban, who sports a neatly-trimmed goatee, is exempt from the new rules because police commissioner is a civilian position.

Attempts by the NYPD to reinstate stricter uniform and grooming standards has sparked a broader conversation about the role of appearance in law enforcement credibility

The upper echelons of the department have in recent months griped internally about what they see as a casual Friday approach that’s less than befitting a paramilitary organization.

The Daily News reported in April about a move to update the NYPD’s dress code, banning shorts on transit beats and white turtlenecks and cargo pants for patrol officers — and reminding officers that NYPD baseball caps are to be pulled down straight, not tilted back or sideways.

That internal order, which also includes a ban on all shoelaces that are not black, was sparked by a committee review lead by Inspector Paul Saraceno.

“I believe that in every profession, if you take it seriously and you act professionally, you dress professionally, you present yourself the same way, it revolves around everything you do,” he said at the time. “If you’re not squared away, if you’re sloppy, it speaks to who you are.

“We expect professionalism in every aspect.”

Our experts debate if an emphasis on traditional attire is misplaced given more critical challenges like severe understaffing

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