Officer Gurvinder Singh, the president of the Sikh Officers Association, which has about 150 members, said the change would help the New York Police Department’s efforts to recruit a more diverse force. Photo: New York Times

NEW YORK (Diya TV) — The New York Police Department is now allowing Sikh officers to wear turbans in place of the department’s traditional uniform cap, these officers will also be allowed to grow beards up to a half-inch long for religious reasons.

Police Commissioner James O’Neill announced the new rules that affect all religious members on Wednesday following a graduation ceremony for new police recruits. Officers must first get approval and the turbans must be navy blue and have the NYPD insignia attached.

“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 said on Wednesday in explanation of the revised rules, as reported by The New York Times.

The decision puts the nation’s largest police department among a small group of law enforcement agencies — Washington D.C., Riverside, Calif. and the United States Army — that allow members to have facial hair and wear turbans. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police has allowed turbans and beards since the 1990s.

The Sikh Coalition has issued a statement cautiously supporting this new development.

“The NYPD’s refusal to hire turbaned and bearded Sikhs allows other employers to justify discrimination,” said Sikh Coalition Legal Director, Harsimran Kaur. “If the NYPD’s new policy indeed allows for Sikhs to maintain unshorn beards and turbans, that sends a powerful message to the rest of America that religious minorities are an important part of our nation’s fabric.”

While the department has become more diverse, many activists say the policies have hurt the agency’s goal of being more inclusive. And the department agreed to review its beard guidelines after a Muslim officer filed a federal class-action lawsuit in June. That case is pending.

Thursday, the Council on American-Islamic Relations in New York reacted to the announcement, praising the commissioner for making the change.

“We applaud this long-overdue step to make sure the NYPD better reflects our city’s diverse communities,” said the council’s executive director, Afaf Nasher. “We are particularly grateful to the work of Public Advocate Letitia James in advocating for Muslim officers who were previously asked to choose between public service and their faith.”