Even though dress codes are changing across the U.S., the Hillsdale Police Department and the Hillsdale County Sheriff’s Office plan on keeping theirs the same.
Most notably, the New York City Police Department changed its policy in late December to allow Sikh officers to wear t
urbans for religious reasons. The NYPD was also sued this summer by Masood Syed, a Muslim officer, who said he was suspended for wearing a beard longer than policy allowed, according to CNN.
Departments in Pennsylvania and Kansas have reviewed their tattoo policies. Others in New Orleans; Portland, Oregon; Austin, Texas; and Pinellas Park, Florida simply chose to overlook their tattoo policies, according to Fox News.
According to Hillsdale’s officers, however, it’s a situation that does not apply here.
“We strive to be professional and look professional in everything we do,” Hillsdale County Sheriff Timothy Parker said.
Dress codes for both the sheriff’s office and the police department regulate how officers may wear their hair and facial hair, in addition to the uniforms they wear.
“It’s a very old policy, it’s not one we really have to enforce,” said Scott Hephner, the city of Hillsdale’s chief of police. “Most of the people comply with it.”
Although the policies do have religious accommodations, Hephner said, most who join the police force know what the job entails.
“People know what the profession means; they want to be involved in this profession,” he said. “Same as when people go into the military. They know what it’s all about.”
Army Ranger veteran and Hillsdale College freshman Jacob Damec agrees with this mindset in the wake of recent tattoo restrictions in the military.
“It is important for soldiers to look like soldiers,” Damec, 22, said. “You don’t represent yourself anymore; you represent the U.S. Army.”
Damec said he believes it is a soldier’s responsibility to comply with dress codes.
“If your religious beliefs require you wear a beard and turban all the time, it’s not the Army’s job to meet you,” he said. “It’s your job to meet the standard. Why would you join an organization where you have to be clean-cut and shaven?”
Protecting the rights of the officers is important, though, said Hephner, although that isn’t currently at the forefront of the discussion.
This is largely due to the demographics of the county. Evangelical Protestants are the second-largest religious group in Hillsdale County, coming second to those who either don’t claim a religion or do not belong to one of the 236 groups listed in the study, according to The Association of Religion Data Archives.
“If that did become a concern here, at that time we would have to look at it,” he said. “Just because a policy is old doesn’t mean it’s set in stone, and we revise and update policies continually.”
Until there’s an explicit need, the sheriff’s office and police department don’t plan on changing on this policy.
“What they do in New York, what they do in California — that’s why I don’t live in New York or California. I live in Hillsdale County and I’m very proud to live in this community,” Parker said. “As the sheriff of our community, it’s appropriate for me to understand the standards for community, and our community standards are substantially different than what New York City would be.”