The New York Police Department announced Wednesday, December 28, that they would allow Sikh officers in the NYPD to wear turbans and beards while in uniform as part of a religious exception.
This appears to be a part of a growing wave of change in law enforcement agencies across the U.S. who are now permitting members of the Sikh and Muslim religions to wear beards and facial hair as well as turbans.
The NYPD policy would allow Sikh members to have beards of up to one-half inch in length and wear blue turbans with a hat shield in an effort to be more inclusive to their diverse officers.
According to the NY Times, the Sikh Officers Association and the Muslim Officers Society, who have more than 1,100 members, have been pushing hard for these changes to be made to the NYPD's policies. Although the policy still requires Sikhs to trim their beards (whereas their religion requires them to keep their beard uncut), many believe that the added length and the option to wear a turban will encourage more Sikh and Muslim candidates to enter the police force.
Although small, these changes could have dramatic effects. The prior policies against turbans and facial hair may have deterred many Sikhs and Muslims from testing and entering law enforcement, whereas now the policy is changed to accommodate these candidates, it could bring more of them into the mainstream. It could be an opportunity to open a new dialogue on heritage, religion, and history.