Flanked by several officers wearing blue turbans with the emblem of the police department emblazoned above their foreheads, NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill introduced a policy change that allows adherents of the Sikh faith to wear the characteristic headgear while on duty. .
 
"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. He added, "It's a major change in 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."
 
Until the change, the approximately 160 Sikh officers in the NYPD wear allowed to wear a smaller headwrap known as a patka beneath the official police cap. CNN quoted NYPD officer Gurvinder Singh, who presides over the national Sikh Officers Association. He said, "Now I'll be able to serve with my full turban on. It's a great feeling." Until now, beards were prohibited because they interfere with gas masks. The Army also allows Sikhs to wear turbans and beards.
 
The police department also announced on December 28 that Sikh officers, pending approval, may grow a beard up to half an inch long. Previously, officers were allowed bears of no more than a millimeter in length. heir turbans. In Australia, Sikhs have asked to remain exempt from laws requiring motorcycle riders to wear helmets, while in Canada they demand to carry their ceremonial daggers or swords everywhere, including court rooms while others are disarmed. 
 
Sikh community leaders are not satisfied with the accommodation. A board member of the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund wants NYPD to allow Sikhs to wear their beards and long hair intact. Unshorn hair, a dagger, and the turban are articles of faith for Sikhs.
 
This year, a Muslim officer sued NYPD, contending that he was suspended and stripped of badge and weapon for wearing his facial hair longer than the standard. A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order, allowing the officer’s reinstatement. A class-action suit filed by the officer declared that the NYPD beard ban is unconstitutional. 
 
Masood Syed, the Muslim in question, expressed disappointment over what he said was an arbitrary decision concerning Sikh beards. 
 
About six police forces in the country explicitly accommodate Sikhs and their garb. In 2012, the Metropolitan Police Department of Washington DC became the first large police force to allow the practice even though it does not employ any Sikhs. Other jurisdictions include Harris County, which incorporates Houston, and Riverside, California. The police forces there allow full beards. 
 
Currently, 900 Muslims serve the NYPD. For years, female Muslim officers have been allowed to wear characteristic Muslim scarves on duty. There are approximately 34,000 officers serving the NYPD. 
 
Jewish officers are allowed to wear skullcaps (yarmulke/kippah) under their service caps. There are currently about 3,000 Jewish officers on the force.


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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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