Officers bargain to have beards


During collective bargaining, employees typically seek higher pay, more time off, better benefits and improved working conditions through their union representatives.

But officers with Seymour Police Department had a unique request during 2017’s bargaining process for this year — facial hair.

Officers decided they wanted to have the option of growing a beard, mustache or goatee while serving and protecting the public. But don’t expect to be pulled over by the next member of ZZ Top anytime soon.

Although their bargaining with the city was successful, officers must keep their facial hair within reason, not too long, scraggly and unkempt, said Police Chief Bill Abbott. They will be able to grow facial hair only from mid-September to late March or early April.

“Officers have always wanted to have beards and goatees, because they just get tired of shaving,” Abbott said. “Times have changed, and public acceptance of beards and goatees has changed to where it’s just not as big of a deal.”

In the past, the department has had strict dress code and appearance policies in place that prevents officers from having long hair, beards and visible tattoos while on duty.

He and assistant Chief Craig Hayes were not involved in the collecting-bargaining process, but Abbott said he wants officers to be comfortable in their work environment.

“We used to have a mandatory uniform change from summer to winter, and we had to wear long sleeves and a tie from October to April, but that policy went away when I became chief,” he said. “I think a police officer can decide if he is hot or cold.”

Abbott still remains a “staunch opponent” to visible tattoos, he said.

In 2016, a group of officers asked Abbott if they could suspend the facial hair rule for a limited time so they could participate in a No Shave November fundraiser.

Since it was for a good cause, Abbott acquiesced and brought the request before the city’s board of public works and safety, which approved the suspension of rules, giving officers the opportunity to sport facial hair from October through December.

Thirty of the force’s 40 officers each donated $25 to participate and the money raised went to fund Project Lifesaver in Seymour. That program equips law enforcement with the technology to quickly locate children or adults with cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s, autism, dementia or Down syndrome, who may have wandered away from home or their caregivers.

In 2017, the department raised money through No Shave November and donated to the Don and Dana Myers Cancer Center to raise awareness for men’s cancer.

Although the No Shave November fundraiser will go away, Abbott said the department raises money to help individuals and organizations in the community year round.

“It’s not like we do this just one time a year,” Abbott said of fundraising.

Officers donate annually to Jackson County United Way and just recently collected money and clothing to help a family in rural Jennings County that lost their home and belongings in a fire. The department also “adopted” Sgt. Cody Davis of the Lumberton Police Department in Texas and Davis’ family after they lost their home to Hurricane Harvey last September.

As for growing his own beard, Abbott said that probably won’t happen due to his age and having too much gray.

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