New West police consider policy on officer’s appearance

Can blue hair pass the professional test for New Westminster police? How about pink?

Safety over style.

That’s the focus of a new “personal grooming and appearance” policy being considered for the New Westminster Police Department. It details the type of hair, facial hair, tattoos, cosmetics and sunglasses that are acceptable in the police department.

At its Feb. 21 meeting, the police board received the new personal grooming and appearance standards policy for its consideration. The policy is intended to ensure each member of the New Westminster Police Department projects a professional public image.

But one part of the proposed policy caught the attention of police board member Drew Hart, who questioned how the policy would define “hair colours that are not professional.”

“I have a problem with that line,” he said. “I personally, as a member of the board, wouldn’t be offended if there is a blue haired constable.”

Chief Const. Dave Jansen said NWPD staff would look at the draft policy and report back to the board.

The policy states that, In general, the dress code for civilian staff and volunteers should be business casual. For sworn officers, it details a variety of items, including grooming, hair, facial hair, tattoos, jewelry, nail polish and hair.

“Hair colours that are not professional are not permitted,” stated the proposed policy.

For police officers, the policy said the standards of grooming are to be in keeping with the “highest standards of professionalism.”

“Officers’ hair must be maintained in a tidy and clean manner and must not impair their vison or obstruct their face,” stated the policy. “It should be neatly tied into a bun, ponytail or braid (if it extends beyond the collar of their uniform shirt) and cannot create an undue hazard, including a “grab hazard or entanglement hazard.”

Plain hair accessories are to be used if they are necessary to keep hair in place, and they should be dark blue, black or as close as possible to the wearer’s hair colour.

What else is in the policy?

Here are some other items included in the proposed personal grooming and appearance standards policy:

* Facial hair should be neatly trimmed, combed and present a professional and groomed appearance.

* Officers are permitted to wear moustaches, goatees and/or beards – with the following conditions: facial hair is trimmed along the lower neck and cheekbones extending no further than 2.5 centimetres and is neatly styled; and members with facial hair under 0.5 cm in length shall ensure they are clean- shaven when participating in a parade or ceremonial duty (Members are exempt if facial hair is groomed in accordance with religious or cultural practices).

* Moustaches will be neatly trimmed at all times and will not extend more than one inch (2.5 cm) beyond the corners of the mouth. (Members are exempt if facial hair is groomed in accordance with religious or cultural practices.

* Sideburns may be kept, providing that they do not extend below a line horizontal to the bottom of the earlobe and they must not be wider than 4 cm.

All members will be required to comply with WorksafeBC requirements for fit testing with their respirator. For those who are required to use a respirator as part of their duties, it is recommended members with a beard carry a dry shave kit in their respirator kit should they need to don a mask in an emergency situation.

As for tattoos, employees are prohibited from displaying tattoos or body art that may be perceived as offensive, discriminatory or hateful. This includes: sexually explicit, profane or vulgar words, phrases or art; graphics, symbols or text that may be interpreted as criminal or gang affiliated; graphics, symbols or text that depict violence; and anything that contravenes any section of the BC Human Rights Code.

“Any body art or tattoos that are prohibited must be covered prior to attending the workplace and shall remain covered in all areas of the workplace including the gym and when representing the department in an official capacity,” stated the policy.

The policy also has some general guidelines about other aspects of grooming and appearance:

* All employees will ensure their nails are kept clean and neatly trimmed so as not to present a safety concern or interfere with the performance of their duties.

* Nail polish consistent with a professional appearance may be worn.

* Unobtrusive personal effects or jewelry may be worn provided they maintain a professional appearance, do not interfere with the performance of duties, and do not present a safety risk or hazard to members or members of the public. Acceptable items include watches, fitness trackers and medical bracelets.

“Stud earrings are recommended to reduce the risk of injury to the wearer, and rings should not have a protrusion that could cause injury to self or others,” said the policy.

Cosmetics are permitted if they are applied in a way that maintains a professional appearance. Because the New Westminster Police Department is a scent-free workplace, perfume, cologne and scented lotions are not permitted in the building or property of the NWPD.

Officers are allowed to wear sunglasses, when necessary, in the course of their duties, but they shouldn’t be worn when officers are addressing a member of the public or posing for a photo that is likely to be shown in the media. Sunglasses may not have mirrored lenses and must maintain a professional appearance in style

At the same meeting, the police board also received a draft of an update to the 2018 “uniform and dress standards and personal appearance” policy.

Among the changes being proposed is the removal of the “personal appearance” name in the policy.

The draft policy also proposes that “all members of the New Westminster Police Department (NWPD) are expected to maintain a high standard of personal appearance” be stricken from the policy.

The policy is designed to provide dress and appearance standards for all NWPD employees and ensure consistency and professionalism in dress and deportment; to enhance employee health and safety through adherence to uniform standards; and to promote and support an inclusive and diverse workforce.

Some of the current components of the policy are being deleted – to maintain a high standard of dress and department, to maintain a professional and consistent image; and to provide direction on the appropriate uniform and dress and method of displaying medals and insignia.

Follow Theresa McManus on Twitter @TheresaMcManus


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