Officers may now wear full turbans and grow beards for religious reasons through policy changes made by the New York Police Department (NYPD).
The policy change affecting around 160 Sikh officers employed by the NYPD was announced by the New York City Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill on Wednesday, 28 December during the Police Academy graduation at Madison Square Garden.
The NYPD patrol guide will still maintain a strict policy regarding head coverings, but officers will now be able to wear turbans so long as they are navy blue and affixed with the New York Police Department insignia. Sikh and Muslim officers are set to benefit from the new rule permitting facial hair up to one half-inch in length.
According to a report by The Huffington Post, O’Neill said: “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.
“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.”
Before the policy change, Sikh officers were only allowed to wear a smaller wrap, called the patka, beneath their official police gear. Sikh activists are calling the policy change a “big victory” for their community, whose male members often refrain from cutting their hair or beards as a religious practice.
The Sikh Officers Association worked directly with the NYPD to revise this landmark policy and is expected to bring in a lot more candidates into the police force from the Sikh community.
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