In an attempt to promote diversity and earn goodwill of the minority communities, the New York Police Department finally relaxed its dress code policy and allowed Muslim and Sikh officers to grow beards and wear turbans while in uniform.
NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill announced the policy change at the graduation ceremony of new police recruits. As the Times reports, of the 557 recruits who graduated from the academy, 33 are Muslims and two are Sikhs.
"We want to make the NYPD as diverse as possible, and I think this is going to go a long way to help us with that," O'Neill said during the ceremony at the Madison Square Garden. "It's a major change in our uniform policy, so we had to go about it carefully. And now I have the opportunity to make the change, and I thought it was about time that we did that."
Most Sikh men refrain from cutting their hair or beards as a religious practice. Previously, the dress code only allowed Sikh officers to wear a thin head covering, underneath their NYPD uniform hat. Now, they can wear a black and blue turban with the force’s insignia on it.
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
Similarly, Muslim men who grow beards for religious reasons can now have one for up to half an inch. Previously, officers were only allowed a millimeter long beard mainly because it interfered with the seal on gas masks.
The decision for religious accommodation followed a federal class-action lawsuit filed by a Muslim officer who was suspended for not shortening his beard, which he had worn for year for religious reasons.
The NYPD reinstated Officer Masood Syed earlier this year and the department agreed to review its ban. He is now seeking a policy change that would allow a two-inch beard.
“I'm still disappointed. If they're saying now that the policy is half an inch and I'm walking around in police headquarters with the top brass, walking around with a beard that's 1 1/2 to 2 inches, where does that leave me? Am I going to be suspended again? Am I going to be walked out of the building again?" Syed said, according to the CNN.
While Council on American–Islamic Relations has applauded the move, the Sikh Officers Association has called the policy change a big victory.
“Now I'll be able to serve with my full turban on. It's a great feeling,” said Officer Gurvinder Singh, president of the association. “There will be a lot more Sikh officers now taking the next exam.”
However, like Syed, some Sikh activists also hope NYPD would go further with their facial hair limit.
“While it's definitely a great step, we look forward to reviewing the policy in depth and ensuring that Sikhs can serve with their turban and beards intact and with no limitations or restrictions to either,” commented Kavneet Singh, a board member of the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund.
Thumbnail/Banner Credits: Reuters