Cops ease rules on tattoos, turbans, beards

AP PHOTO In this Tuesday photo, New York City police officer Mandeep Singh speaks during an interview with The Associated Press at the 41st Precinct in the Bronx borough of New York.

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 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.”

That followed a 2014 move by the St. Paul, Minnesota, 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 still pending, though, because he said the length is arbitrary and it should be case by case, depending on the officer’s needs.