Police loosen tattoo, beard, headwear standards
NEW YORK — The Joe Friday look is out. Tattoos, turbans and beards are in.
Police departments, compelled by a hiring crisis and eager for a more diverse applicant pool, are relaxing traditional grooming standards and getting away from rules that used to require a uniformly clean-shaven, 1950s look.
More officers are on the job with tattoos on their forearms, beards on their chins or religious head coverings like hijabs and turbans in place of — or tucked beneath — their blue caps.
“My turban is a part of me,” said Mandeep Singh, among 160 Sikhs in the New York Police Department who last month were allowed to wear navy blue turbans in place of the standard-issue police caps.
That followed a 2014 move by the St. Paul, Minn., police to create a special hijab for its first female Somali Muslim officer.
Muslim NYPD Officer Masood Syed, who grows a beard for religious reasons, was suspended for its length and sued his department last year over a rule requiring beards to be trimmed to within a millimeter of the skin. As a result, the department changed the length to a half-inch and reinstated him. Syed’s suit is pending, though, because he said the length is arbitrary and it should be case by case, depending on the officer’s needs.
Many departments say it’s tougher to attract candidates to a physically demanding job that offers low pay and is under increasingly intense public scrutiny. That has led many to make a nod to shifting fashion trends, particularly among millennials, and ease longstanding bans on beards and visible tattoos.
New Orleans; Portland, Ore.; Austin, Texas; and Pinellas Park, Fla., are among the departments that look the other way if a recruit comes in with visible tattoos.