Police Appearance Policy Raises Racial Sensitivity Issues

BALTIMORE — The WBAL TV 11 News I-Team has obtained a new professional appearance policy for the Baltimore Police Department intended to promote a professional image, but it’s also raising questions of racial insensitivity. The new policy is more specific than the old one. For example, tattoos must now be kept covered. However, the questions surround an issue that’s been batted around the courts and company workplace policies for several years — hairstyle. “We just felt that over the years, some officers have taken advantage of the old general order and are not presenting themselves, while in uniform to the public, in the most professional manner possible,” said Matt Jablow, spokesman for the Baltimore Police Department. Like the old policy, the new one governs hair length, jewelry, mustaches and beards, but it also added a new standard — extreme, or “fad,” hairstyles are prohibited, including cornrows, mohawks, dreadlocks, and twists. 

Online Petition If you’d like to voice your opposition on this issue please take the time to sign this petition. It was written by Patricia Gains, aka DeeCoily, of Nappturality.com and created by members and supporters of Nappturality.com. You can also leave your comments. Thanks in advance for your support. Hopefully our collective voice can and will make a difference against this oppressive policy.

Three of the four hairstyles banned are almost exclusively used by blacks. “I think it’s incredibly insensitive,” said Taunya Banks, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Law. “I’m really kind of concerned about labeling as faddish a practice that’s not faddish at all, and what appears to be a targeting of black officers.” Banks said the policy seems to ignore the differences in hair texture between blacks and whites and may affect black female officers more than men. “What they’re saying to a woman is either she has to wear her hair short in an Afro, which is no longer stylish, or she’s going to have to chemically straighten her hair,” she said. “We do not think it’s racially insensitive. It’s not intended to be racially insensitive,” Jablow said. Department officials said they consulted with the Black Officers’ Organization in forming the policy. It will go into effect on Jan. 1, the same time as Baltimore swears in its first female black mayor. Sheila Dixon said Tuesday she’s aware of the new policy and supports it. “I think there is an appropriateness one needs to have, and if that’s the policy of the police department, then one has to come in compliance,” Dixon said. Earlier this year, 11 News reported that there’s less diversity in the leadership ranks of the police department now than 10 years ago. Deputy major is the highest rank held by a black woman in the department, and only two women hold that position.

2 Responses to “Police Appearance Policy Raises Racial Sensitivity Issues”
  1. Ses says:

    “Jan 18th: The Baltimore Police Dept has officially RESCINDED the policy against natural hair styles. The new policy is now in effect. African American natural hairstyles are no longer considered fads and banned under the new policy.The affected officers of the BPD Thank you for all your support. in helping to reverse this policy in the name of freedom and acceptance. I also thank you all for supporting these officers and remember to ALWAYS be diligent!”

    copied from http://kathmanduk2.wordpress.com/2008/03/31/from-the-archives-baltimore-police-department-bans-twists-locks/

  2. nappyme says:

    Thank you for posting this. This was a really important, grassroots swelling of support that shows how powerful we can be as a people when we pool our resources. It was wrong to for the Baltimore PD to even fathom that the way black people wear their hair should be reduced to an offical fad and unacceptable.

    A horrible wrong has definitely be righted!

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