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by Peter Moskos

September 13, 2009

Houston police beard ban legal

"U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal determined the policy violated no state, federal or constitutional rights and dismissed the lawsuit Sept. 3."

That may or may not be true. But I've never understood why beards are banned by most police departments. Why do police departments care? Are we still living in 1960? Are people with beards inherently untrustworthy? Are we afraid that sideburns will lead to long-haired-hippy freak police officers dropping acid? Just what is it about facial hair that means you can't be a good police officer? I think it's just a way to keep the P.D. closed and conservative.

This mindless conservative pseudo-military B.S. bugs me. It serves no purpose other than helping ferment an us-versus-them attitude among police and the public. And I think it also helps keep otherwise good people from wanting to become police officers.

God forbid cops have whatever hair and sideburns they want. I mean, the public might think police are... er... normal?

Here's the A.P. story.


Sgt. T said...

From another angle, what kind of tool wastes his time & money fighting a hair restriction all the way to federal court? Doesn't he have better things to do, like go have a life? He's just earned the ire of everyone above him in the chain of command for the possibility of the grand prize of....not having to shave.

PCM said...

I see you point... but the other part of the lawsuit is the racial angle. It does seem like the dress code, ie: what is considered "professional" appearance, is biased towards whites. For the life of me, I've never been able to understand what is "unprofessional" about braids.

David Bratzer said...

I had a beard when I was going through the application process. I was repeatedly by friends of mine who were police officers to shave it off before I did any interviews. They said if I kept the beard it would look as if I was hiding something. At the time I thought this was silly but I wanted to get hired so I shaved it off.

Now that I've been hired, I've grown it back a couple of times. I think as long as it is kept trimmed and neat the public doesn't care. However, obviously some command officers disagree with this and have a certain preference for how their officers should look.

PCM said...

And I think many "cop mustaches" look goofy. But who am I to say?

I think the beard ban is just a remnant of crusty old white officers with an anti-liberal bias who think, "The world may have gone to hell, but at least we can keep liberals and diversity out of the police department!"

The idea that somehow long hair or beards or dreads or plaits or tattoos inherently means untrustworthy or immoral bothers me. And if that's what we teach police officers, how can we expect officers to police diverse communities?

Back in the early days of policing, I think facial hair was often mandatory.