The New York Police Department has allowed the Sikh officers to wear turbans and grow beard
New York| New York Police Department (NYPD) will now allow Sikh officers to wear turbans and beards marking another milestone for members of that religion although it restricts the beard size to half-an-inch.
Announcing the change in uniform and appearance policy, City Police Commissioner James O'Neill said: "We want to make the NYPD as diverse as possible."
Welcoming the change, the Sikh Officers Association tweeted: "This is a proud moment for Sikh Community." But because of the half-inch beard restriction, the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, a human rights organisation, appeared to give new policy a qualified welcome.
"We look forward to reviewing the policy in depth to ensure that Sikhs can serve with their turban and beards intact and with no limitations or restrictions to either," said board member Kavneet Singh.
But Singh added: "We commend Commissioner O'Neill on this positive step to make the NYPD a fully inclusive department." Till now Sikh NY police were allowed to wear only a small head covering, the patka, under their regulation hats or caps. Now they can wear a full blue turban.
"We've been working with the Sikh officers to try to make sure we get this done," O'Neill said after a ceremony for graduating class of the police academy. "I had the opportunity to make the change and I thought it was about time that we did that."
A group of Sikh officers wearing blue turbans with the NYPD badges accompanied O'Neill when he made the announcement. Two Sikhs, who were among the 557 graduates, had earlier received permission to keep their beards but not wear full turbans.
O'Neill estimated that there are about 160 Sikhs in the 34,500-strong force in the city of 8.5 million people.
The new policy seemed to apply to traffic police who are officially called traffic agents and wear white hats. Last week a Sikh police traffic agent was seen directing traffic near the United Nations wearing a white turban.
However, New York police officers will be required to wear the police medallion on their turbans and so far Sikh officers have not objected to it.
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