Veteran NYPD officer Masood Syed will return to work with his beard, less than two weeks after filing a federal class-action lawsuit alleging that the NYPD's facial hair policy—an amalgamation of guidebook rules and unwritten accommodations—violates his constitutional rights.
Syed said that he was suspended without pay last month after he refused to shave his beard to one millimeter—even though he's maintained a longer beard for "nearly all" of his decade on the force. A practicing Muslim from Queens assigned to a unit that handles internal disciplinary proceedings, Syed has said that he wears the beard in accordance with his faith. At an emergency hearing in Manhattan federal court in late June, a judge ordered the NYPD to keep paying Syed until his next court date.
"As of last night he's been fully reinstated," said Syed's lawyer Luna Droubi on Friday. "Before he was on paid leave, so now he's been completely fully reinstated to his job, with his beard, and the NYPD has agreed to review its policy. It's exactly what we were seeking."
The department will conduct a 120-day internal review of its no-beard rule, and possibly adjust how it assesses and disciplines beard wearers, according to the New York Times.
"I'm excited to be back at work," Syed said in a statement. "I am hopeful that the department’s new policy will in fact allow myself and other officers to wear our beards at a reasonable length without the fear of retaliation or hostility."
Former NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly revised the department's patrol guide in 2008 to prohibit facial hair, making exceptions for undercover officers and, on a case-by-case basis, cops seeking religious or medical accommodation. Those exempt from the no-beard policy are often allowed facial hair up to one millimeter in length, according to the suit. His lawyers equate that length to a day's stubble.
The NYPD has previously justified the beard rule as a safety measure, saying that facial hair can interfere with the seal on a gas mask. But Droubi counters that her client was certified to wear a gas mask, despite his beard.
"I can't speak to why they are suddenly making this a big deal," she told us last week. "But there's a lot of inherent discrimination that can be masked under words that sound neutral."
Droubi added on Friday that she hopes the review process will not take place behind closed doors. "We'd much rather the community and religious leaders included in the conversation," she said. "We're bringing this claim for Sikhs and Orthodox Jewish officers as well."