CULLMAN – Back in August, a Cullman Police officer posted a survey on social media, with the permission of the department, asking how folks felt about the idea of police officers wearing beards. The general response was positive toward the idea, as long as facial hair was kept short and neatly trimmed. Those who opposed the idea preferred officers with a military appearance, or expressed concern about suspects getting hold of an officer’s beard during a fight. See http://qrne.ws/beards.
Polls may be informative and a little fun, but of course the Cullman Police Department can always claim the last word, and they did. Chief Kenny Culpepper told The Tribune that CPD officers will have their faces clean shaven.
The reason does have to do with officer safety, but not so much about fights. The CPD is about to equip all of its officers with gas masks, which require a snug seal on the user’s face that Culpepper says beards simply will not allow.
Culpepper explained why the department is issuing the new equipment. “It’s kind of a running joke between us and the fire department that they call us blue canaries. There’s a bad accident with something leaking, and when they pull up on the scene, they look to see if the police officers who got there first are on their feet or not.
“Besides the levity of that, what if you’re directing traffic at a bad accident scene some distance away, and the wind shifts, and you don’t have any sort of PPE (personal protective equipment)? And then also, we’ve had incidents where we’ve had like a barricaded gunman, where we had to deploy tear gas. The tactical officers have their gas masks, but a lot of the patrol officers who form our outer perimeter have been exposed to tear gas before, when it drifted in their direction, because they didn’t have that issued as part of their normal duty gear.
“Then also, some things like having to go into a building to help extract a body that’s been there for an extended period of time, things like that, that people may not think about. It doesn’t happen that often, but when it does it would be nice to have that PPE.”
A timetable for the issuance of the new equipment has not been released.
Copyright 2017 Humble Roots, LLC. All Rights Reserved. Photo shows an example of a gas mask. U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Jack Braden. Courtesy www.af.mil