County In A Lather Over Facial Hair

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. – A request for Hall County corrections officers to bypass shaving for a few months had some Hall County supervisors in a lather.

“We consider them professionals…this is so on the edge,” said Hall County board Chairwoman Pam Lancaster. “I do not like facial hair.”

Corrections Director Fred Ruiz said he too doesn’t like facial hair for corrections officers and had to deal with officer “grooming issues” when he took over as jail director in 2006.

But the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 78 wants to raise Christmas funds for the children of the Hope Harbor homeless shelter by having officers pay to grow moustaches and beards. The proposed cost is $125.

“I don’t have a big issue with this…other than it’s too long,” said Supervisor Scott Arnold.

The proposed growing period is from Nov. 8 to April 25. Arnold said he suspected the 150-day growing period was to coincide with the winter weather season, but he felt a shorter period was more in line.

Ruiz agreed and said he didn’t want the fundraiser to go longer than 100 days.

Amid questions about other law enforcement policies, Ruiz said the Nebraska State Patrol allows facial hair. He is a retired captain with the state patrol.

Arnold, who is a Grand Island police officer, said anyone in uniform must have a clean shaven face, with the exception of a moustache, as long as it does not go below the lip. Investigators, who are not in uniform, are allowed to have facial hair.

Supervisors were unsure of the facial hair policy at the Hall County Sheriff’s Department, but Chief Deputy Hall County Sheriff Chris Rea told The Independent after the meeting that moustaches are allowed as long as they do not go below the corners of the mouth. Sideburns are allowed as long as they do not go below the bottom of the ear.

“No other facial hair is allowed,” Rea said, so that deputies portray a “professional appearance.”

The only exception in the sheriff’s office is if a deputy is in a special undercover operation and any growth of facial hair not consistent with the department policy must be approved by a supervisor, Rea said.

Supervisor Dave Ziola said the cause is a good one. He and Arnold were pleased that corrections officers were wanting to get involved in the community and assist a non-profit agency.

The supervisors decided to let Ruiz handle the facial hair request, as long as the growth period is shortened and that growth is manicured.

Ruiz is a member of the Hope Harbor board of directors.


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