The New York Police Department just made a "major change" to its uniform policy. On Wednesday, NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill announced that Sikh officers will now be allowed to have longer beards and wear just a turban on their heads while on duty, so long as they have obtained a religious exemption from the department's Equal Employment Opportunity Office. Both wearing a turban and keeping a beard are integral practices to the Sikh faith.
Previously, officers with religious exemptions were only allowed to have a beard up to a millimeter long. Because of the department's strict rules against non-uniform head coverings, Sikh officers were only allowed to wear a small head wrap underneath their traditional police hats. Now, beards of up to a half-inch long are permitted. Turbans will be allowed to be worn in place of a police hat, so long as the turban is navy blue and has NYPD insignia on it.
The new rules reflect the force's growing number of Sikh officers; CNN reports there are now about 160 Sikh officers in the NYPD. "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'Neill said.
Gurvinder Singh, an NYPD officer and president of the national Sikh Officers Association, is already predicting "there will be a lot more Sikh officers now taking the next exam" because of the policy changes. "Now I'll be able to serve with my full turban on," Singh said. "It's a great feeling."