Lubbock, TX - You might see something different on police officers around Lubbock: beards. Lubbock Police changed their policy on facial hair this year and now officers are allowed to grow (well groomed) beards.
The policy states:
"Beards, whether full or goatees, are authorized; however they must be worn with a mustache. Beards shall be kept clean, neatly trimmed, and present a conservative, professional appearance. Facial hair of any kind that presents any sort of faddish appearance is prohibited. No portion of the beard may be exceptionally longer than the rest, and beard hair length will nor exceed 1/4 inch. The neck must remain clean shaven."
The policy states that patches or clumps of hair are not permitted. Soul patches are also forbidden. Officers are encouraged to grow out their hair during their off time.
Assistant Chief Neal Barron said that the policy is quite popular among his officers.
"The response was almost immediate, right after the policy came out, you saw a lot of officers starting on a beard, and a lot of them have kept their beards, some have shaved," Barron said. "And [the bearded officers] look good, they're neatly trimmed, I think they look sharp."
The policy was officially released January 13, but Barron explained that many officers have continued to keep their beards since that day.
Some of the bearded LPD officers said they believe the new policy saves them the time and hassle of shaving every morning.
"Every other day I trim around it to make sure I keep my hair off of my neck, as the policy states and just maintain it and make it look neat," said Officer Tony Leal.
"When you shave every work day for twelve years and you're given the opportunity not to shave anymore, I think it is easy to make the decision not to shave," Leal continued, saying that an added perk of the facial hair is that his wife likes it.
But there is a strategic purpose behind this policy as well, LPD hopes that allowing beards helps their recruiting numbers and serves as another way to make officers relatable.
"We want to be a mirror of the community that we serve and we don't want to be so restrictive that someone who enjoys wearing a beard couldn't come to work for us, so I think the policy is crafted in a way to allow someone to wear a beard and still look professional," Barron said.
"We have to stay competitive as far as our ability to attract applicants, and when other police departments do things to make themselves more competitive to make their policies less restrictive, in regards to facial hair and things like that, we have to keep up." Barron added.
He explained that more and more police departments around the country are permitting beards.
EverythingLubbock checked with Dallas Police, who explained that anyone in their department can wear a mustache, but only undercover officers can wear beards. A spokesperson for San Antonio Police said that male officers are to keep their faces free of facial hair, with the exception of well trimmed mustache or neat sideburns. Austin Police Policy states that their field officers are only allowed to wear mustaches and side burns; beards are only permitted with medical or religious exemptions.
"It doesn't fit the persona of a uniformed officer I've had for over twenty years, but it's growing on me," said Barron, who enjoys caring for his new beard.
Leal added that he doesn't feel he's viewed any differently with his new beard.
"[It's] Still business as usual, I still come to work, do my job and go home," he said.
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