New rule now allows NYPD officers to wear beards and turbans at work for religious reasons

The New York Police Department has made a major change in practices that will allow officers  to wear beards and traditional turbans while on the job.

Current regulations prevent officers from wearing any non-regulation headgear and also requires them to go without beards unless a medical reason is presented for the latter. And even at that officers can only sport beards of “one millimeter in length,” so essentially just stubble, according to The New York Times.

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But now a major change to that policy has been announced to allow officers who follow the Sikh religious lifestyle  to wear their full beards and their turbans, due to the area’s growing Sikh population. The only stipulation is that the turbans must be New York Police blue and must have an NYPD cap shield affixed in front.

The change comes after a Muslim officer filed a lawsuit against the department saying his religious rights were violated by department policies. As part of the lawsuit, the NYPD promised to review its guidelines. But critics worry that this may open the door to any manner of demands from small minority groups.

“We’re making this change to make sure that we allow everybody in New York City that wants to apply and have the opportunity to work in the greatest police department in the nation, to make sure we give them that opportunity,” NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill said earlier this week.

Officer Gurvinder Singh, the president of the 150-member Sikh Officers Association, celebrated the change in policy.

“A lot of their kids wanted to join, but they couldn’t,” Singh said. “And now they can. This country has given us a lot, and now we want to pay it back.”

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Harsimran Kaur, legal director of the Sikh Coalition, also celebrated the decision bust scolded the NYPD for it past discrimination saying, “The N.Y.P.D.’s refusal to hire turbaned and bearded Sikhs allows other employers to justify refusing to hire Sikhs. If the N.Y.P.D.’s new policy indeed allows for Sikhs to maintain unshorn beards and turbans, that sends a strong message that Sikhs are part of the mainstream fabric of America.”

Many have serious quesitons about the rule and are weary it may complicate matters.

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