NYPD relaxes uniform policy to allow for beards, turbans

New NYPD Police Academy graduate Frank Cinturati, front, takes a selfie with his company after their graduation ceremony at Madison Square Garden in New York, Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2016. The ceremony celebrated 555 new officers who just completed their 6 months training. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Caption
New NYPD Police Academy graduate Frank Cinturati, front, takes a selfie with his company after their graduation ceremony at Madison Square Garden in New York, Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2016. The ceremony celebrated 555 new officers who just completed their 6 months training. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Credit: Seth Wenig

Credit: Seth Wenig

The New York Police Department announced on Wednesday a change in its policies aimed at making the department more inclusive and addressing issues brought up by a class-action lawsuit that was filed against the department earlier this year.

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Police Commissioner James O'Neill announced that officers will be allowed to wear beards and turbans with the uniform, so long as the turbans are blue.

"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," O'Neill said, according to CNN. "It's a major change to 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."

Authorities agreed to review the department's uniform policy after a Muslim officer filed a federal class-action lawsuit against the department in June, t\The New York Times reported. The officer, Masood Syed, said he had been suspended during the month of Ramadan for refusing to shave his inch-long beard in accordance with his faith. The case is pending, according to the newspaper.

"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," O'Neil said.

Under the new policies, any officer who is given a religious exemption will be allowed to keep a beard up to a half-inch in length and wear a blue turban with a Police Department hat shield on it.

Both the Muslim Officers Society and the Sikh Officers Association pushed for the change in policy, according to The New York Times. Together, the groups have more than 1,100 members. O'Neill said Wednesday that there are about 160 Sikh officers on the police force.

The Sikh Officers Association took to Twitter to praise the decision.

On Facebook, the NYPD Muslim Officers Society highlighted Wednesday as a "proud moment" for the Police Department, the city and the country.

"People can elect to serve their communities without having to compromise their faith, or letting go of their dreams (because) it doesn't have place for your faith," the group wrote.

A very #Proud moment for #NYPD #NYC and #USA  People can elect to serve their communities without having to compromise...

Posted by NYPD Muslim Officers Society on Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The New York Police Department joins a handful of agencies that allow facial hair and turbans, according to The New York Times, including the U.S. Army and police departments in Washington, D.C. and Riverside, California.