The Sikh Officers Association celebrated on Wednesday at the news that the NYPD will provide a religious accommodation for police officers to wear navy-blue turbans in lieu of standard issue police caps, and beards up to one half-inch in length. Currently, officers are limited to wearing patkas—smaller head coverings that fit under a cap. Religious and medical beard allowances have historically been for one millimeter—the equivalent of a five-o'clock shadow.

"It's going to make a huge difference," said Officer Gurvinder Singh, President of the SOA. "I've been with the NYPD for ten years now and there were a lot of Sikh kids who wanted to join but they weren't able to because of the policy."

NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill announced the change after an NYPD Academy graduation this week, saying he hoped the new accommodations would help increase diversity in recruitment. This year's class of 557 recruits is 48 percent white, compared to 12 percent black, over 25 percent Hispanic, and 13 percent Asian. The NY Times reports that 33 class members are Muslim, and two are Sikh.

"We're making this change to make sure that we allow everybody in New York City that wants to apply and have the opportunity to work in the greatest police department in the nation, to make sure we give them that opportunity,” Commissioner O'Neill told paper.

Officers will still have to file for a religious accommodation with the NYPD's Equal Employment Opportunity Office, for permission to wear a half-inch beard, or a turban. On the beard front, Singh said, officers may be allowed to use gel while on the job, rather than shave their beards to the allowed length. The new accommodations are not in the guidebook, he added, and are still being hammered out. The NY Times reports that they'll be finalized next month.

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—albeit only up to one millimeter. But some officers say the rules have been sporadically enforced.

This week's announcement comes on the heels of a federal class action lawsuit alleging that the NYPD's facial hair policy violates constitutional rights. Over the summer, Officer Masood Syed said that he was suspended without pay 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. Syed was re-instated two weeks after filing suit, and the NYPD agreed to review its beard policy.

Attorney Luna Droubi is representing Syed. "Our case is still pending," she said on Thursday.

"Though we have yet to see the new policy, we welcome the Commissioner's announcement," Droubi added. "It is an acknowledgement that the previous policy was unconstitutional."

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. An NYPD source told the Daily News this week that that rule will remain in effect.

"We look forward to reviewing the written policy (which has not been shared yet) before determining whether this is a complete fix," wrote the Sikh Coalition in a Facebook post. "Yet we're optimistic about what this announcement represents in the way of progress."