NEW YORK – American Muslim police officers in New York will be allowed to grow beards for religious reasons, according to new polices by the New York police department aimed at inclusion of different faith groups.
“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,” Police Commissioner James O’Neill was quoted by the New York Times as saying on Wednesday, December 28.
The new rules allow Sikh and Muslim officers to grow beards of 1.27cm long for religious reasons, in a move aimed recruiting more minorities.
They were announced by O’Neill on Wednesday following a graduation ceremony for new police recruits.
Of the 557 recruits who graduated, 33 are Muslims and two are Sikhs, the Times reported.
The Sikh Coalition, an advocacy group which aims to protect the right to practice the religion, said it was “optimistic about what this announcement represents in the way of progress”.
Meanwhile, the Sikh Officers Association welcomed the move calling it “a proud moment for [the] Sikh community”.
Wearing a beard is a Sunnah in Islam.
The policy change follows a legal case by a Muslim officer who said restrictions on beard length were unconstitutional.
Masood Syed, 32, was forced to go through a legal batter after NYPD suspended him for 30 days for growing a beard earlier this year.
Syed had been suspended from work and escorted from the department’s headquarters after it was deemed that his beard was more than 1mm in length and therefore breached regulations.
The NYPD reinstated Syed in June and the department agreed to review its ban on the beard.
Muslim women in the NYPD have for years been allowed to wear headscarves.