Amid Hiring Crisis, Police Are Allowing Beards, Tattoos

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Eager for a more diverse applicant pool amid a hiring crisis, police departments are relaxing grooming standards and getting away from rules that used to require a uniformly clean-shaven, 1950s look, the Associated Press reports. More officers have beards, tattoos inked on their forearms, 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 City Police Department who last month were allowed to wear navy blue turbans in place of the standard-issue police caps. “This opens a gate for other potential candidates who felt they could not be a police officer because they would have to choose either the job or their faith.”

St. Paul, Mn., in 2014 created a special hijab for its first female Somali Muslim officer. Muslim New York City 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. The department changed the length to a half-inch and reinstated him. Syed’s suit is still pending, because he said the length is arbitrary and it should be case by case, depending on the officer’s needs. Departments say it’s tougher to attract candidates to a physically demanding job that offers low pay and is under intense public scrutiny. Many are nodding to shifting fashion trends, particularly among millennials, and easing longstanding bans on beards and visible tattoos. New Orleans, Portland, Or., and Austin, Tx., are among the departments that look the other way if a recruit comes in with visible tattoos.

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