To beard or not to beard, that is the question vexing Ireland’s police force in a controversy over officers’ patchy facial hair.
A Garda Síochána supervisor has instructed subordinates to “smarten up” and grow a proper beard or to be clean-shaven and to avoid a ragged in-between look that resembles “a badly watered lawn in a heatwave”.
The unnamed inspector, who works in a Dublin traffic unit, wrote in an internal circular to Garda sergeants that some officers “cannot seem to make up their minds” about a beard and alternate weekly between being clean shaven and having uneven stubble, RTÉ reported.
The critique followed a rule change last year allowing uniformed officers to grow beards if they are kept tidy and between 0.5cm and 2cm in bulk. “The decision to allow members to wear beards should not be interpreted as an excuse to break from shaving every now and then,” the inspector wrote. “In short, members should decide whether they want a beard or not (or whether their partners will allow them to have one or not) and commit to one look or another.”
The circular said guidelines gave a maximum of two weeks for the beard to grow. “If after that, the face still resembles a badly watered lawn in a heatwave, then it is time to concede graciously and admit defeat. Beards are not for everyone after all, and as the summer months approach and the days get warmer, there are certain advantages to being clean shaven.”
Grooming puns sprouted on social media and on tabloid front pages, including “Garda bristleblower”, “caught by the fuzz”, “arrest that growth”.