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Fate of State Police Sergeant’s Mustache Rests With Judge

May 25, 1993

BOSTON (AP) _ The fate of state police Sgt. Ralph Weaver’s mustache rests with a judge.

Weaver went to court Monday, seeking to overturn a regulation that would force him to choose by July 1 between his mustache of 23 years and his badge.

″I don’t think anyone has the right to judge the way I look after I’ve been a police officer for 23 years,″ Weaver said.

Weaver said he understands some bans on facial hair, such as prohibiting firemen from having beards. But a neatly cropped ’stache?

A U.S. District Court trial over his his lawsuit lasted less than a half hour and no witnesses were called. Lawyers in the case had agreed on the facts and the decision will be made by Judge Rya Zobel. She did not say when she would rule.

Weaver’s attorney, Kathleen McCarthy, argued the ban was arbitrary.

But Assistant Attorney General Rosemarie Gale, representing the state police, said the no-mustache rule was meant to promote ″esprit de corps.″

″It is important to develop a sense of shared mission,″ Ms. Gale said. The state police have always had a no-mustache rule.

Zobel questioned how far the rules could go.

″Could he say all officers have to paint their fingernails red because that promotes esprit de corps?″ she asked.

Ms. Gale responded: ″Certainly if there was a rule they all had to shave their heads or wear rings through their noses, the burden on the plaintiffs would be more easily met.″

The case grew out of the merger of the state police with three other state- run police forces, all of which had allowed mustaches while the state police had not. The merger took effect July 1, 1992, but the Legislature gave officers a year’s grace period from new regulations, so Weaver had the chance to keep his mustache and defend it in court.

″From the beginning, we just asked them why, and they never gave us a satisfactory answer,″ Weaver said. ″It’s not like I grew it yesterday to break their cookies.″

Weaver, 45, said about a half dozen officers still have mustaches, though 11 filed the lawsuit. He said he had not decided whether to shave if the case doesn’t go his way.

As of July 1992, 17 state police forces in the nation prohibited mustaches, according to the lawyers’ statement of facts.

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