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Officer Suspended Over Dreadlocks

July 12, 2000

BALTIMORE (AP) _ A Rastafarian police officer stripped of his badge for refusing to cut his dreadlocks is fighting the decision, claiming that cutting his hair would violate his religious beliefs.

Antoine Chambers, on the force six years, says the department’s hair policy is unconstitutional, and the American Civil Liberties Union has threatened to file suit.

Police spokeswoman Ragina C. Averella said the policy applies to all uniformed officers and is intended to establish a standard, professional look.

Rastafarians wear their hair to resemble that of Haile Selassie, or Ras Tafari, the central figure of their religion. Selassie, who died in 1974, was the emperor of Ethiopia.

Chambers, now restricted to administrative work, was suspended from active duty in late June after his commander refused to accept that his hairstyle was a form of religious expression.

Chambers has worn the dreadlocks about a year, said ACLU Attorney Dwight Sullivan. He added that the officer’s hair is well-groomed and easily concealable under a police cap.

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