NYPD changes policy to allow turbans, beards

NYPD changes policy to allow turbans, beards
© Getty Images

The New York City Police Department says its Sikh officers can now wear full turbans and beards of up to half an inch long.

“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,” NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said Wednesday, according to CNN.

“It’s a major change to 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.”

Wearing a turban and keeping a beard or unshorn hair is a religious practice maintained by Sikhs, who call the spiritual expression “kesh.”


O’Neill said there are about 160 Sikh officers in the NYPD, the nation’s largest police force and one of its most diverse.

Gurvinder Singh, an NYPD officer and president of the national Sikh Officers Association, said he is grateful the department is accommodating his faith.

“Now I’ll be able to serve with my full turban on,” he said. "It’s a great feeling. There will be a lot more Sikh officers now taking the next exam.”

Wednesday's changes follow last summer’s lawsuit from Masood Syed, a Muslim NYPD officer who said he was suspended and stripped of his badge and gun for wearing a beard longer than protocol.

Syed was later reinstated after receiving a temporary restraining order from a Manhattan federal judge, but his case remains open. The class-action suit calls current NYPD policy unconstitutional and seeks a new rule allowing for 2-inch beards to comply with Islamic doctrine.