NEW YORK – The New York Police Department has relaxed its policies to allow Sikh and Muslim officers to grow beards of 1.27cm long for religious reasons, in a move aimed at recruiting more minorities.
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New rules also allow Sikh police officers to wear turbans instead of traditional police hats.
Of the 557 recruits who graduated, 33 are Muslims and two are Sikhs, the Times reported.
New York Police Commissioner James O’Neill, who announced the new rules following a graduation ceremony for new police recruits at Madison Square Garden in New York City yesterday, said the change was to encourage religious members of the community to apply “to work in the greatest police department in the nation”.
Official word is that turbans must be navy blue and have the NYPD insignia attached, the BBC reported.
Under the new rules, religious members of the force are also permitted to grow beards up to half-an-inch long.
Sikh officers have until now worn turbans under their caps. Beards have not been permitted.
The Sikh Officers Association of the US thanked Mr O’Neill in a tweet, adding that it was a “proud moment” for the Sikh community.
Sikh Officers will now be able to wear Turban in the New York City Police Department. pic.twitter.com/wLrB8HyCxz
— Sikh Officers Assoc. (@SikhOfficers) December 28, 2016
Sikhs often cover their heads with turbans and are forbidden from shaving their beards.
In May, a Sikh soldier who was forced to shave off his hair and beard to join the US Army won the right to wear a black or camouflage turban and grow his facial hair.
Officer Masood Syed, a legal clerk in the NYPD, had worn a beard for years for religious reasons but was later ordered by supervisors to shorten it. When he did not, he was suspended.
The NYPD reinstated Syed in June and the department agreed to review its ban on the beard.
Muslim women in the NYPD have for years been allowed to wear headscarves.
Source: BBC, Aljazeera