HR Strange But True!
September 29, 2009

While the specter of layoffs hung over the Philadelphia Police Department, it was a “hair hubbub” over a personnel policy that overshadowed that story and brought cries of discrimination, according to the Philadelphia Daily News.

It's a style that other Philly police officers sport, but when a police officer appeared for roll call at the 35th District wearing corn rows, he was pulled out of the lineup and put on desk duty by the District Inspector until he cut off the braids, according to the story. But what caused the controversy over a personal appearance policy? The officer was white.

Police Department Spokesperson Lt. Frank Vanore said the decision had nothing to do with race, but was based on the Inspector's view that the style was not “professional” and his suspicion that the style would not allow the officer's hat to fit “in the required military manner.” Ironically, the officer in question is a former Marine who had served in Iraq .

The policy on personal appearance states that hair must be clean and properly combed and not be an “unnatural” color such as blue, purple, or green, according to the article. It does not specifically ban hairstyles such as cornrows, mohawks, or dreadlocks, although these styles could make it difficult to wear a hat square on.

The incident has elicited comment from fellow cops, some of whom said that many black officers wear cornrows without being told they violated policy, and who wondered why a white officer was told his cornrows were in violation.

One cop, who was not named, said the style was neat and above the collar. “It's not like he shaved anything … on his head. It's just cornrows. I don't know what the problem is.” Vanore, who did not see the style himself, speculated that the officers who were allowed to keep the cornrows were women because the hair policy for female officers is more permissive, he told the newspaper.

Vanore emphasized that the officer was not disciplined, but was told to get a haircut, which he did 2 days later. The officer has made no public comment so far, and the police union said it has “no position” about the incident, except to say that if the officer's hairstyle is now consistent with the policy, there should be no further problems.

Source: Philadelphia Daily News

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