The normally clean shaven Hempstead Police Department is looking a bit hairy as law enforcement in the state's largest village raise money for local families facing economic hardships this holiday season.
Nearly 50 village police officers participated in the "No Shave November and December" fundraising drive, growing large and often scruffy beards and mustaches to purchase toys for children in the Hempstead community, officials said Wednesday at a news conference outside the department's headquarters.
"It's great to give back to people in our community and to see smiles on kids' faces and show them we are not against them. We are with them," said Det. Roman Pettway of the Investigations Bureau, who grew up in the village.
Members of the department have raised more than $5,000 by selling T-shirts advertising the campaign and from direct financial contributions by police officers.
The department will use the money to purchase toys for needy village children, with the items set to be distributed on Dec. 17. The event will also include a caravan of police vehicles decorated in lights, caroling, a stop at a local senior center and a visit from Santa Claus.
Det. Lt. Derek Warner, commanding officer of the Juvenile Aide and Domestic Violence Bureau, said the campaign was a fun way for members of the department to do something for the community, which has been struggling during the pandemic and economic slowdown.
"Most of us grew up in the village," Warner said. "And so many families are going through tough times right now."
The department typically has a strict policy prohibiting beards — trimmed mustaches are permitted — to provide for a uniform look among its officers. But the campaign allowed members to grow beards through the end of the calendar year, Warner said.
Police Officer Ian Roth, said the campaign was not only a "morale booster" for officers but a small way to bridge the gap with village residents by showing off a more modern look.
"It's a good steppingstone for having a common look between the village residents and the officers," said Roth, whose wife and six-month-old child are big fans of his new facial hair.
Hempstead Mayor Don Ryan said it's important for officers to reach out to the community to help ease their burden at the end of such a challenging year.
"We are proud of their initiative during this holiday season to make things a little bit easier and to bring a little more joy for our residents," Ryan said. "Obviously this is an extremely difficult time and anything in that direction is certainly a blessing."