Cops and Facial Hair: Yes or No?

Age Prediction based on bodily fluids


Police officers and facial hair. Not a good combination in most departments. Well, except for the mustache. Most police agencies forbid officers from sporting, goatees, full beards, and Elvis-type sideburns. In fact, policy normally mandates the shape and size of the upper lip fuzz. The most common restriction on mustaches is that they cannot extend below the corner of the mouth.

There are a couple of reasons for these constraints. Most departments insist that gas masks will not fit properly over a beard. Which, if true, could be extremely hazardous in a life-threatening situation. Sure it could be dangerous for the officer, but what about the people he’s trying to protect? If he’s incapacitated by a leaky gas mask, then he could also be hindered to the point where he couldn’t protect an innocent person from harm.

Another reason cited for prohibiting officer facial hair is the individual department’s desire for uniformity – they want a regiment of look-a-likes.

A hairy upper lip is part of cop culture. It’s been around for decades. Some officers claim to have had their staches longer than they’ve been married to their wives. Others say it’s a guy thing, an area of their body (no tattoos, beards, earrings, or long fingernails) their department can’t control. They grow them because they can.


University of Dallas police officer




And there’s always the cop in The Village People…


For most officers it’s about tradition. Lawmen of the Wild West had them and so should they.


And for the rookie officers who can’t quite grow a mustache:

From Urbandictionary:

1. cop stache love it 143 up, 22 down hate it
The style of mustache that was popular back in the 80’s and made semi famous by Robert Redford, but nowadays worn primarily by police, usually corrupt or a..hole ones.
Rule of thumb: The bigger the cop stache, the bigger the a..hole he is.
12 replies
  1. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Hi Steven. Sure, there are a few agencies that permit facial hair, but very few. You can probably count the number that do on one finger. You’ll have to check individual policies. I know how you feel, because I had a beard when I went for my first interview. I was told by the sheriff that if I wanted a second interview the facial hair had better be gone when I returned. I shaved that night. I wanted the job that badly. If your desire to become a police is that strong you’ll do the same. It’s a small price to pay.

    I did, however, wear a beard or goatee most of the years when I worked in plainclothes, either as an undercover officer or as a detective. BUT, if you do make it in with facial hair, you’ll probably shave it off the first time you get into a nasty scuffle and a bad guy nearly pulls off your face using it as a handle. That’s experience talking!

    Good luck. Keep me posted. I’d love to chronicle the journey on this site.

  2. Steven
    Steven says:

    Is there any branches of Law Enforcement that allow facial hair, more to the point, any that allow goatees. I live in the Southern California area. So hopefully something around here for now, but I’m willing to move.

  3. Mary
    Mary says:

    Thanks for responding, Lee. Yeah, I think your answer just about covered my question. I’m afraid that one of these days, I’m going to get a fine for accidentally blowing past a stop sign. Of course it wouldn’t be intentional, but everyone (especially new drivers) makes stupid mistakes. Some handle it better than others (I had a guy lean out his window and scream at me yesterday. It’s times like those that I wish I had a taser, lol…)

    I completely understand that driving is a right, and from the amount of stupid drivers out there (that put everyone else in danger), I think that statement should be made clearer.

    Also, mostly kidding about the taser part 😀

    Can’t wait to see tomorrow’s entry 🙂 It gives me something to look forward to before I prance off to work. Thanks again for replying!

  4. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Ramona – There are pictures, but I don’t have a clue where they are at the moment. I suppose the grab factor could come into play, though I’ve never seen it written anywhere. That’s why cops wear clip-on ties (so bad guys can’t choke them).

  5. Terry
    Terry says:

    Lee, I just use the ‘what happened to the earring’ when I want to give dh a hard time. Seems like the ‘rebel’ factor disappeared once he could actually do it. The beard thing, I think, is as much because he’s lazy about shaving as it is making any kind of statement.

  6. ramona
    ramona says:

    “I also wore an earring as part of my long hair, bearded undercover look.”

    Is there photographic evidence of this? Otherwise, I don’t believe it.

    I thought police kept hair short and clean-shaven so bad guys would have less to grab onto in a fight. Maybe I read that in some inaccurate mystery novel.

  7. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Mary – I’m not sure if I understand your question. Are you asking if police officers can issue traffic tickets to people who are driving with a learner’s permit, not an actual driver’s license? If so, the answer is yes. That’s the time when the driver should definitely be stopped. They’re learning how to drive. I’m not saying cops should issue them a summons for a very minor offense, but they should certainly let them know they’ve done something wrong.

    What most people don’t realize is that a driver’s license is a privilege, not a right, for us to possess. So obeying traffic laws is pretty doggone important.

  8. Terry
    Terry says:

    Back in the days before dirt, when we were first married, beards, moustaches and hair in general were the ‘in’ thing. When dh had to go on an extended research trip, I suggested if he wanted to grow a beard, he should do it then when I didn’t have to deal with the scruffy phase. He did, and had it so long that when our kids looked at a wedding picture displayed at my mom’s, they asked who the man was. I told them it was their father, and they said, “We had another Daddy?”

    He always said he’d NEVER work anywhere with a dress code that regulated facial hair. So I know EXACLTY what it was worth for him to quit is professorial job in Miami and move to a theme park job in Orlando, even though it was a behind the scenes position.

    As soon as the standards allowed moustaches, he grew one. When they ‘retired’ him, the first thing he did was stop shaving, because his new job didn’t care.

    Now — he’d also said he wanted an earring, but he never did take that step.

  9. Mary
    Mary says:

    Thank goodness some departments still allow facial hair, because Reno 911 just wouldn’t be the same for me without them 🙂 I don’t think the cops around here are allowed to have any hair on their head. They’re bald. I’m always seeing bald cops around. I told my mom that maybe they don’t have water softeners?? lol

    Anyway, I have a question that I’ve been meaning to ask someone for a while: If you pulled over a driver for a traffic offense (of minor severity) and you found out they were on a permit, would you/could you ticket them? Now, we’re not talking street racing, but more like…crappy lane changes 🙂

  10. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    I sort of feel that people who apply for the job know what the requirements are when they walk in the door. If they don’t like those rules and restrictions there are plenty of lawns that need mowing, dishes to be washed, pipes that need unstopping, holes that need digging, bridges to be built, and fruit and vegetables that need picking. Then again, I had long hair and a beard for many years while working as a cop. So who am I to judge?

  11. D. Swords
    D. Swords says:

    Good Morning everyone.

    The issue of police departments’ ability to control an officer’s hair and facial hair went to the US Supreme Court back in the mid-late 70’s. The court ruled that departments had the right to regulate an officer’s appearance. The only part of the decision I remember was something about “esprit de corps.”

    It was not a popular decision among the rank and file.

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