My Letter to the Baltimore PD protesting their ban on ethnic hair styling methods
City, State Zip
December 21, 2006
Police Commissioner Leonard Hamm
Baltimore Police Department
242 West 29th Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21211-2908
Dear Commissioner Hamm, It has come to my attention that your police department has recently banned various methods that are commonly used by African Americans to style their hair. According to your policy as I under stand it, Extreme or fad hairstyles are PROHIBITED, including but not limited to: cornrows, mohawks, dreadlocks, and twists, as well as designs or sculptures using the hair and/or cut into the hair.
While I understand the need for your officers to have a professional appearance at all times, I think your policy is in some instance addressing the wrong issues. Cornrows, dreadlocks and twists are methods used to style the hair…and is not the always the style in and of itself. So in other words I could use cornrows to create a sculpted, extreme style…let’s say a Mohawk or a fro hawk. Or, I could use cornrows, twists or locs to create any number of conservative styles including buns, French rolls, bobs, ponytails and etc. that would be appropriate for any black professional including a police officer in or out of uniform.
Let me give you another example, I could have my hair done in micro braids that reached down to my waist and adorn them with beads and such….or I could pull my braids back (minus the beads and baubles) into a stylish bun or a ponytail and blend in nicely in any professional setting. As someone who now wears their hair totally natural, that is to say without extreme length enhancing extensions, I’m certain I could style it using my preferred method of twists in a manner that would represent your organization well.
I’m enclosing several pictures of my hair in various styles that use twists that your department has banned. As you can see, there’s nothing extreme of faddish about the way I style my hair and easily fits your guidelines as outlined on the next page.
Continued on the next page
Hair will be styled such that the length does not extend beyond the top of the eyebrows
or ears, below the lower edge of the uniform shirt collar, nor below the front headband of properly worn headgear. Objects worn in the hair, including but not limited to pins, barrettes, bands and clips:
· Shall be inconspicuously placed for the sole purpose of holding the hair in place.
· Must be unadorned, and transparent or similar to the color of the hair.
· Shall not interfere with the proper wearing of issued headgear.
Two large flat twists converge in the back to make an afro puff which as you can see does not extend past my collar. If it did, I could just tuck it under to conform to regulations. The barrette could obviously be switched out for something that conforms to dress code regulations like a plain black band to secure the puff in the back.
Two-strand twists naturally fall into a bob shape and also conform to your regulations of not extending past the collar. The twists in the front can easily be tucked into my cap. Absolutely no difference if I had loose straight hair as a white female or a black female with pressed or permed hair.
This style was created with a combination of flat twists in the top and sides and double strand twists in the back. Again, conforms totally to your appearance policy. It’s neat and professional. It also doesn’t extend past the brow, is not longer than the collar and does not prevent a cap from being worn properly.
This style is created with flat twists in the top and loose double-strand twists in the back. The little hair pins can be replaced with a comb the same color as my hair to secure the bun. The bun can be adjusted to fit under a cap.
So as you can see…it’s not the method (e.g. twists, cornrows or locs) used to style the hair that’s the issue, it’s the style that’s created by way of the method used that you should be paying attention to on a case-by-case basis. From viewing these pictures it’s obvious that natural hair styling methods can be used to create hair styles that can conform to your standards.
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I’m hoping that by providing these few examples, you’ll reconsider the ban you have on cornrows, twists and locs. By taking away these styling methods, you are placing severe limitations on your African American officers — a policy that at it’s worse is racist and extremely culturally insensitive. However, I’d like to think you and your policy makers are merely unaware of all the ways in which these methods can be used to create a professional, well-groomed appearance.
Thank you for taking the time out of busy day to read my letter and voice my concerns and opinions. And again, I urge you to reconsider this portion of your appearance policy.