09/11/2009

Judge rules Houston police's beard ban is legal

Associated Press

HOUSTON — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit challenging the Houston Police Department's ban on beards.

The department says gas masks can't properly be worn with beards.

But four officers filed a lawsuit saying the policy discriminates against those with a skin condition that primarily affects black men and gets worse with shaving.

U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal determined the policy violated no state, federal or constitutional rights and dismissed the lawsuit Sept. 3.

Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt said in a statement Thursday the decision will allow officers to "safely do their jobs."

The policy was established in 1993 so officers would look professional but wasn't regularly enforced until gas masks were issued after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

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