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Minn. police department approves groomed facial hair

Officer Cole Ernest said he believes professionalism has more to do with "demeanor" than physical appearance


By Jamey Malcomb
Lake County News-Chronicle

SILVER BAY, Minn. — The Silver Bay City Council approved a motion that would allow members of the Silver Bay Police Department to wear well-groomed facial hair while on duty.

Police Chief Doug Frericks was unable to attend the meeting, but approved of the proposal and officers Cole Ernest and Alex McGrath attended to answer any of the council's questions. Councilor Carlene Perfetto said she voted against the measure because she believes the policy went a little too far by allowing officers to wear facial hair on the sides of their faces. She believes it should be limited to mustaches and goatees.

Ernest told the board he believes professionalism has more to do with "demeanor" than physical appearance.

"I'm not looking at you as unprofessional," Perfetto said. "I'm looking at you in the case if you have to give mouth-to-mouth or use the equipment it's going to impede what you are doing to the person who is in trouble."

Ernest told the board providing emergency aid like CPR or mouth-to-mouth resuscitation wasn't an issue because the officers use bag valve masks and rebreathers that prevent contact and exposure to bodily fluids.

Perfetto is mostly concerned the policy doesn't dictate a permissible facial hair length. The policy said facial hair should be "maintained at a length and pattern not to detract" from the officer's ability to perform.

"It doesn't say a quarter of an inch, an eighth of an inch or two inches or anything like that," Perfetto said. "So I think you need to be a little bit more specific."

Perfetto said she believed others in the room who had facial hair, including Councilor Richard DeRosier, wore it at an acceptable length.

DeRosier, a deputy with the Lake County Sheriff's Department, said he didn't have a problem with the way the proposal was worded and was confident Frericks would ensure officers' appearance remained professional and practical.

"I have full faith in the chief and the way he runs his department," DeRosier said. "I think he's certainly capable to say, 'Hey, trim it up a little,' or do something different. I have no problem letting the chief make the decision."

Also at the meeting, the council unanimously voted to enter into a memorandum of understanding with Northshore Mining for a trial program allow the plant to send its high fluoride water to the city. The plant is treating the high fluoride water as much as it is able, but now will mix the water with the lower fluoride city water to create a more acceptable blend for both entities.

City engineer John Groutman said there was a concern about the plan affecting mercury levels in the water and that is the reason for the 90 day trial period. John Thomas of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency approved the plan and required that the water be tested for mercury three times weekly.

“It’s basically a trial period,” utilities department manager Mike Miller said. “If anything doesn’t work out it’s 24 hours to tell them it’s done and they have the same option, they can shut it off at any time.”

Copyright 2017 Lake County News-Chronicle

McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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