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Hairy police officers kick up a right fuzz

But PSNI stops short of ban on beards which has left UK colleagues bristling

By Claire McNeilly

A war on facial fuzz has been declared... by The Fuzz themselves.

Police in the UK could soon be banned from growing beards following the lead taken by Gloucester Constabulary, whose Chief Constable Suzette Davenport has ordered her officers to either cover up their stylish beards or trim them right down so they look more "professional".

The force has defended its new uniform guidelines, arguing that it was important its officers looked "smart" while on duty.

So could the same thing happen here... or will the PSNI - all of whose Chief Constables have been clean-shaven - turn a blind eye to big-bearded policemen on the beat?

Inspector Colette Pike said the boys in green should sport tidy facial hair in the line of duty.

"Beards/moustaches should be kept neatly trimmed although exceptions to this are made for practising members of a religion which specifically forbids this," she said. "Makeup may be worn in moderation and should be of a colour and type that is appropriate to the work environment.

"Tattoos must be covered when on duty and/or representing the service at public events, except in those cases where it is necessary as a result of religious/cultural observance."

Gloucestershire Constabulary, which has also banned visible tattoos and fake tans, said it places importance upon its officers and staff presenting a professional appearance and being smart.

Its policy extends to female officers who have been urged to wear minimal makeup.

"We consider it plays a significant part in maintaining and enhancing public confidence in policing," a spokesperson said.

"To reflect this, the Constabulary has introduced a new uniform policy which includes advice on facial hair, covering of tattoos etc."

Police Federation of England and Wales chairman Steve White said a beard might actually be a disadvantage, offering something for a suspect to grab onto.

"There is a big difference between a trimmed goatee beard and a full length Father Christmas ZZ Top beard," he said.

Any new regulations may well affect some Muslim officers who are obliged to sport a beard as part of their religion, although Gloucester will allow beard nets to be worn in such circumstances.

However, any trend away from facial hair would almost certainly be bad news for Peter Swinger, the heavily-bearded Met officer whose photograph went viral in May after he was snapped helping to control an English Defence League rally in London.

Pc Swinger was sporting a waxed moustache and luxuriant beard wearing a baseball cap and public order unit uniform.

It earned the hirsute father-of-three the online nickname 'Hipster Cop' - and surely put the lid on any chance of a transfer to the Gloucester force.

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