RCMP order bearded officers off the road. Bungle up on sensitive racial issue?

RCMP sources told The VOICE this morning that all bearded officers – and that would include Sikh and Muslim officers who keep beards as part of their religious beliefs – have been taken off the road and moved to desk jobs.

We called the Surrey RCMP and the BC RCMP media section multiple times and informed them why we were calling, but they seemed at a loss about what to say.

We have been told that Sikh, Muslim and other officers are extremely disturbed about this racist move – the excuse is reportedly about wearing masks in a safe manner. But the shocked officers want to know why other police departments and other outfits across Canada have not done this.

Former solicitor general Kash Heed lashed out at the RCMP, wondering if London’s Metropolitan Police was following the same policy. He said if this is COVID-19-related, why aren’t the RCMP taking direction from Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam or B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry?
“We have air force pilots, military personnel, crowd control officers, firefighters and police all over the world that have beards related to their faith that wear masks. Why is the RCMP so unique?” he added.

Kash Heed Photo: Chandra Bodalia

This appears to be just another blunder by RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki and the senior RCMP management and is bound to lead to more racism against Sikhs and Muslims by racists who just need any excuse to attack others.

LATER, the RCMP responded, sending the following email to The VOICE:

“You are correct that members who have shaving exemptions for medical or religious reasons have been impacted by our need to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in response to COVID-19. The health and safety of our employees is a top priority for the RCMP. Safeguarding their well-being is an essential obligation as an employer and is critical to the safety of the public.

“We have heard the concerns of our members regarding the lack of safe facial Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) members with beards. As a direct result of these concerns, we have assessed a number of possible alternative PPE options that would not require a clean shaven face.

“Unfortunately, there is presently no evidence of a safe and proven alternative to the currently approved PPE that meets the unique uncontrolled setting in which our front-line members operate and that adheres to occupational health and safety regulations.

“That being said, we are concerned that our members are unable to serve in the capacities they wish to, and we will continue to explore options as they arise.

“We value the dedication and commitment that all of our members have for our organization, and we are striving to ensure these officers are reassigned to meaningful work with other units.

“We believe that all roles provide value to the organization and to the communities we serve, particularly in the wake of this global pandemic.”