When you think about police officers portrayed in television and film, how many of them have facial hair?
Odds are, quite a few.
Both of the leads in “Lethal Weapon” have facial hair. Tom Selleck sported a mustache in “Magnum, P.I.” and “Blue Bloods.” Ice-T has had a full goatee for 18 seasons on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.”
But how many cops do you see in everyday life that have facial hair? Not as many.
This year, the Oxford Police Department participated in its third annual No-Shave November fundraiser. Each year, the entire force is allowed to voluntarily grow out their facial hair if they donate to the local charity the force chooses.
The force chose to donate to the Oxford Community Foundation’s Logan David Keebler Memorial Scholarship in honor of Logan Keebler, the son of Oxford’s Streets and Maintenance supervisor Eric Keebler. Logan tragically died earlier this summer after an industrial fire.
“We work really closely with Eric and his crew,” Oxford Police Chief John Jones said. “They started a foundation that will give scholarships to Talawanda kids.”
By growing out their beards, officers are technically violating one of the force’s codes of conduct.
Oxford Division of Police’s General Order 41.3 Appendix B, Rule No. 2 says that officers may not have mustaches that extend below the upper lip line.
Rule No. 3 prohibits officers from having beards entirely.
Jones explained that there is a long-held stigma behind officers having facial hair.
“Officers are meant to be in uniform, clean cut and professional looking,” he said. “So, there’s always this thought that you couldn’t have a beard and be professional looking.”
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Detective Matt Blauvelt points out the evolution of the attitude society has toward facial hair.
“Twenty or thirty years ago, beards weren’t considered appropriate at all,” Blauvelt said. “And now, I think society is more accepting. CEOs of companies have them. It’s much more mainstream.”
Every year, Jones issues a procedural order that lasts from the end of October to the end of December that suspends the rules prohibiting beards and mustaches in support of the No Shave November movement. The order also establishes the guidelines for the movement in order for the rules to remain suspended.
For instance, every officer participating must pay $40 for each month they participate.
They also may make an extra $10 donation and demand another officer to shave anytime during the month. The challenged officer can override the shave demand by matching the amount of the demands against them within 24 hours.
Each year, to commemorate the end of No Shave November, the force takes composite photographs of just the officer’s beards and posts them on the division’s Facebook page.
The public then has their chance to vote for who grew the best beard. The top three officers that get the most votes win a prize chosen by Jones.
“There’s a little bit of a morale boost, since they get to grow facial hair,” Jones said. “And also it’s kind of their way of giving back to the community. [The contest] involves the community and it also humanizes that badge.”
Talawanda Middle School Student Resource Officer Matthew Wagers won the contest last year and believes the competition makes the workplace more fun.
“There’s a little bit of casual competition,” Wagers said. “But I think we all enjoy not having to shave, too.”
The department has raised over $800 for the Logan David Keebler Memorial Scholarship and that number is set to grow as more officers will pay to keep their facial hair through the month of December.
“In Oxford, people aren’t used to seeing cops with facial hair,” Wagers said. “So, it is an attention-grabber. But then it is also an opportunity to spark conversation, too, because they want to come up and talk to you about it. And then we can tell them the cause behind it, and it’s a way to let them know we’re trying to connect and support the community that we serve.”
Voting for this year’s contest begins on Tuesday, Dec. 17 on the Oxford Police Department’s official Facebook page, and it will end on Friday, Dec. 20.