The New York Police Department (NYPD), the largest police force in the country, announced on Wednesday it will now allow Sikh officers to wear beards and turbans while in uniform.
According to NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill, officers who are granted a religious accommodation will be allowed to have beards that extend up to one-half inch from the face and wear turbans in place of the police cap. However, no written policy has been shared that specifies the beard accommodation and the guidelines for how it applies.
“We look forward to reviewing the written policy before determining whether this is a complete fix, but we’re hopeful about what this announcement represents in the way of progress,” said Sikh Coalition Legal Director, Harsimran Kaur.
Since 2003, when the Sikh Coalition first sued the NYPD over a Sikh Traffic Enforcement Agent’s right to wear a turban, we have been fighting to end religious discrimination in the NYPD. If this new policy fully allows for Sikhs to maintain their unshorn hair, then this will become a widely celebrated announcement. However, if this new policy specifies limitations that further restrict Sikhs from serving with their articles of faith fully intact, then we are prepared to continue the necessary work to end religious discrimination in the nation’s largest police force.
“The devil is in the details and we hope the NYPD recognizes that any trimming of the Sikh beard is in direct violation of the Sikh faith and would continue a policy that forces officers to make the false choice between their religion and service to our great city,” said Kaur.
The Sikh Coalition is communicating directly with the NYPD and other New York City officials as we seek a copy of the written policy. We continue to work closely with other public officials, Sikh community leaders and Sikh police officers who have worked tirelessly with us on this issue.
A special thank you to the NYPD Sikh Officers Association and the leadership at the Richmond Hill Sikh Cultural Society, Gurdwara Sant Sagar, and the Baba Makhan Shah Lubana Sikh Center, along with past and present Sikh Coalition staff and board members.