No more ban on beards for Detroit cops

The department previously banned beards and goatees, but allowed neatly-trimmed mustaches

By Gina Damron
Detroit Free Press

DETROIT — The Detroit Police Department has shed its old policy on facial hair, ushering in a new choice for officers: beards.

Police Chief James Craig said he didn't want to "keep something in place that really had ... no bearing on how good they would do their job."

The department previously banned beards and goatees, but allowed neatly-trimmed mustaches. Officers who had a medical condition aggravated by shaving, though, could seek a shaving deferment, allowing them to grow beards and save their skin from razor bumps. But they weren't allowed to sculpt their beards along the hairline because "such removal would defeat the purpose of deferred shaving," according to a facial hair policy dated in 2009.

Under the new policy -- which, according to a department teletype/, took effect in July -- officers can sport trimmed beards and goatees.

"Doctors have beards, attorneys have beards ... politicians have beards, engineers, teachers, all across the professional board and, I mean, we're men," said Officer Richard Bullard, an 18-year veteran of the department who said he utilized the shaving deferment. "Men grow hair on their face."

Officer Eric Bromley, who recently came out of the academy, said the new policy gives officers more flexibility with how they look outside of work.

For him, the decision to grow a beard came down to this: "I don't like to shave. I mean, that's really it. ... I prefer a beard."

The new facial hair policy, though, has raised some eyebrows.

"I hate the beards," Assistant Chief Steve Dolunt said. He said: "I don't think it looks that professional."

When Craig asked what constitutes an officer looking sharp, Dolunt said: "creased uniform, clean shaven." Dolunt acknowledged, though, that he thinks the chief is "hipper."

Willie Bell, chair of the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners, said he is not in favor of the change. Bell, who said the board is supposed to be involved in the policy process, but was not consulted, said he prefers more traditional grooming standards.

Craig said he thought the move was good for morale.

"I thought officers should be able to wear the beard, " he said. "It doesn't have anything to do with being less professional."

When it came to changes, Craig said he didn't stop with beards. He said female officers are now allowed to wear stud earrings on the job. That portion of the policy is not extended to male officers. Craig said in an interview last month that he hadn't been challenged on that, but "if a lot of people made enough noise I would certainly entertain it, I would discuss it."

Female officers can wear no more than one pair at a time and the earrings have to be gold, silver or black, according to the policy.

Sgt. Elaine Williams is happy about the earring policy. She said "it gives women the opportunity to be seen on the feminine side" and gives them a way to express themselves.

She said it illustrates something else too: "It shows how the department is evolving."

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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