A job in law enforcement is one that involves daily interaction with the public and outside communities, which is why it is important to most agencies to maintain policies and regulations regarding grooming standards for their officers. Many law enforcement agencies believe that having strict grooming standards for officers ensures safety, uniformity, and discipline. These standards also have an effect on public perceptions of the police.
Here are some sample grooming standards from various departments:
- Tattoos should not be visible while wearing uniform.
- Visible tattoos should not have a racist, sexist, obscene, or other socially or professionally unacceptable connotation
- Hair is to be neatly groomed, and should not interfere with normal safety/departmental head gear. Female officers should style their hair so that it does not hang beyond their uniform shirt collar. Facial hair: Mustaches must be trimmed with no hair extending down over the upper lip or extending past either side of the mouth. Uniformed patrol officers are not permitted to have beards.
- Jewelry like necklaces, bracelets, chains and any body piercing that is exposed or may interfere with the officer’s duty are prohibited.
- No heavy makeup. If makeup is worn, it should appear to be as natural as possible.
- Use of tobacco products, including smokeless tobacco, is prohibited unless they are used in a designated smoking area and only when officers are not conducting police business. Officers are also not permitted to use tobacco products in a vehicle owned or maintained by the agency.
A 2003 study on Public Perceptions of Police Grooming Standards published in Police Chief Magazine showed that relaxed standards for grooming would decrease the public’s overall confidence in the police to the extent that respect, trust, and pride would decline.
However, many departments – but not all – will relax their standards for officers citing religious reasons. Metropolitan Police Department in D.C. changed its uniform policy in May to allow Sikh officers to wear turbans and full beards on duty. In contrast, NYPD was harshly criticized recently for firing a new recruit, a Hasidic Jew, after he refused to trim his beard.
Police officers are among the most highly visible representatives of government. As such, professional appearance is extremely important. Be aware of the grooming standards of your perspective department and be sure you can meet them prior to applying.