Beards for a fee at the Radford Police Department
Many have been clean-shaven since 18.
But for the next five months, dozens of Radford police officers will be sporting some stubble – if they are willing to pay.
Radford Police Chief Don Goodman has suspended the department’s policy against facial hair until March 1 for what the department is calling a “bounty” of $75 per beard. The money collected is being donated to Radford’s McHarg Elementary School for a greenhouse that the school hopes to build on its premises.
“We’ve always joked that wherever police officers go when they retire, they’re just going to let their hair grow,” Goodman said.
Day and night sergeants – Sgt. Jerry Holdaway and Sgt. Jason Slaughter – had been requesting a loosening of the rules for the winter months, Goodman said.
“I was getting double-teamed,” Goodman said. “And then Sgt. Holdaway said it could be a fundraising possibility.”
The fundraiser and beard-growing started Nov. 1, which is also the official beginning of the national “No Shave November” campaign. Goodman said he hopes that men partaking in the popular movement to forgo shaving for an entire month also consider making a donation.
Some community members have already gotten involved. Slaughter said he was approached by two citizens who asked why the officers hadn’t shaved. Once they learned about the fundraiser, each donated $20.
And since female police officers weren’t planning on growing beards, Goodman said he had to come up with a policy-breaking way to include all 37 sworn officers in his department. Women officers can pay $75 to paint their fingernails – something that is also usually forbidden.
So far, the department has 24 officers participating and has raised $1,800, “all from facial hair and a couple fingernails,” Goodman said.
The choice to donate the money to McHarg wasn’t a hard one, officers said.
“It’s the most precious thing we protect in this city so it feels good,” Slaughter said.
Plus, several officers, including Slaughter and Holdaway, have children who currently attend the school.
McHarg Elementary’s principal Ellen Denny said that during the summer, the school renovated a courtyard nestled behind the building, enclosing it with a 6-foot fence and putting in tables, a reading amphitheater and a pergola over a pond. The last phase would be a greenhouse, she said.
“We want to make it a science outdoor classroom to immerse our children into science and growing things in a more hands on, natural state,” Denny said.
But the school doesn’t have the money for a greenhouse, which can cost up to $10,000 with installation, Denny said. She mentioned it to Goodman at some point.
“The Radford City Police Department is extremely supportive of our little primary school,” Denny said. “Officers will even come in the morning and open car doors for children.”
Denny said the department’s actions make them a “stronger member of our little community.”
“For us, we really benefit from this project they’ve put in place,” she said.
Some newly bearded officers ate lunch with the students the other day, Denny said. “The beards look very neat and very clean,” she added.
Although Goodman said growing a beard while in uniform is outside of his comfort zone, he may “go rogue” on a few Fridays. Other officers – like Cpl. Adam Frost – immediately started growing their scruff.
“I’ll be honest with you, when I saw Adam, I almost pulled the plug on the whole thing,” Goodman said. “His is so dark.”
Goodman has just one rule: Beards must stay short for safety reasons. Officers have to be able to fit into all the equipment – like gas masks – and beards cannot be long enough to create the opportunity for offenders to wrap their fingers around the hair.
“We’re not going to have a ‘Duck Dynasty’ beard or anything like that,” Goodman said. “They’ll be somewhat conservative.”
Goodman said he wouldn’t commit to making the fundraiser an annual event. But officers who overheard him quickly came up with ideas – Belle Heth Elementary next, then the middle and high schools.
“And then,” Holdaway added, “There are daycares.”
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