Camden cops alter grooming rules — will other NJ police follow?
CAMDEN — New Jersey salons and barbershops are set to reopen Monday, June 22, having been shut down for three months due to the coronavirus pandemic.
One group that has traditionally been impeccably groomed is police officers, but in Camden County, long-standing personal appearance rules have started to relax a bit.
Though the decision announced last week by Camden County Police Chief Joseph Wysocki was arrived at separately from the pandemic, Lt. Janell Simpson, who consulted with Wysocki on the changes, said it allows officers to feel more up-to-date and less "paramilitary," as she put it.
"It was still maintaining the professional appearance of the officers but just making the officers comfortable and current with the styles that are fitting," Simpson said.
Camden County Public Affairs Director Dan Keashen said he was not aware of any other law enforcement jurisdictions in New Jersey making similar revisions, but that the CCPD would be happy to share its guidelines with other departments.
To conduct her research, Lt. Simpson conducted Zoom meetings over the last few months with street cops, detectives, and especially the department's female officers as to how to ease certain guidelines while still maintaining officer safety.
What came out of that was a universal hair standard for both males and females that includes possibilities to wear braids, locks and short ponytails.
"You would have never seen a female officer with a ponytail before," Simpson said. "You would see one now but it still has to be of a certain length because of safety issues."
For investigative staff such as detectives working indoors, their hair can now touch their collars.
Different hair colors are also now permitted — within reason.
"You can't wear blue, pink, green, none of those colors, but now we have more options of dying our hair colors. It was more of just natural colors," Simpson said, specifying that those natural colors can range anywhere from gray to blonde.
The new standards replace ones that had been in place dating back to the former city-run Camden PD.
Other changes include the allowance of stud earrings and different colors of nail polish, plus nails that can extend one-eighth of an inch beyond the fingertip.
"The color of the polish, that's not a safety issue," Simpson said. "They'll still be able to effectively do their job with nail polish on."
All new guidelines are effective immediately.
Patrick Lavery is New Jersey 101.5's afternoon news anchor. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.