RELIGION

NYPD to allow Sikhs to wear turbans, grow beards

FILE - In this Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2016 file photo, NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill speaks to new graduates of the Police Academy during their graduation ceremony in New York. The New York Police Department is now allowing Sikh (seek) officers to wear turbans in place of the traditional police cap and grow beards up to a half-inch long for religious reasons. O'Neill announced the new rules that affect all religious members on Wednesday following a graduation ceremony for new police recruits. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

FILE - In this Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2016 file photo, NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill speaks to new graduates of the Police Academy during their graduation ceremony in New York. The New York Police Department is now allowing Sikh (seek) officers to wear turbans in place of the traditional police cap and grow beards up to a half-inch long for religious reasons. O'Neill announced the new rules that affect all religious members on Wednesday following a graduation ceremony for new police recruits. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)  (The Associated Press)

The New York Police Department is now allowing Sikh (seek) officers to wear turbans in place of the traditional police cap and grow beards up to a half-inch long for religious reasons.

Police Commissioner James O'Neill announced the new rules that affect all religious members on Wednesday following a graduation ceremony for new police recruits. Officers must first get approval and the turbans must be navy blue and have the NYPD insignia attached.

Male observant Sikhs often cover their heads with turbans — which are considered sacred — and refrain from shaving their beards.

Before, Sikh officers had to fit their turbans under their department issued cap. Beards were forbidden because they interfered with wearing gas masks.

O'Neil says there are about 160 Sikhs serving in the police department.