Tustin residents may have noticed in the month of November that their police officers had grown a little furry around the edges.
The cause wasn’t a delay in the supply chain in the delivery of razor blades. In another sign that public agencies are shaking off the COVID-19 pandemic doldrums, 43 officers participated in the Tustin Police Department’s version of Movember fundraising.
Movember is a term that has been adopted to refer to November facial hair-growing events that benefit charities.
Interrupted by the pandemic, the charity drive relaunched this year. Originally the event was restricted to mustaches, but this year, for the first time in Tustin, officers were allowed to go for the full hirsute pursuit by growing thick, luxurious beards.
Even women officers seemed to enjoy Movember, one asking “Can I enter?” while stroking her smooth jaw line.
Collectively, the officers raised more than $1,000, mostly through paying an entrance fee to participate, which was donated to Big Brothers and Sisters of Orange County.
The Tustin Police Department’s personal appearance standards were relaxed for the event, although officers were required to keep their beards neat and groomed.
In addition to raising money for a good cause, Movember helped generate camaraderie, morale, and good-natured ribbing, especially when new beards went through their “awkward” stages.
Not all officers made it through the early itchy, splotchy phase, and some were convinced by their partners to bail on the beard. But those who stuck it out were happy with the outcome.
For many, this was their first time going full beard, and most seemed to like the result. Some, like Field Training Officer Joe Cossack and Officer Josh Yuhas, came to the Tustin Police Department from the military, where facial hair is rare. Others, like Field Training Officer Tim Crouch, joined the force at a young age and never had the chance to grow a beard.
Then there were the bearded vets, like Sgt. Matt Roque, who had a beard most of his adult life before joining the force.
“When I interviewed 15 years ago, I had one,” he said. “They told me, ‘You know you’re going to have to lose it.’ When I go on vacations, I grow a beard.”
Crouch said his father wore a beard his whole life and “I always wondered what it would look like on me.”
He admits he had to “ride out” the early stretches when the hair came out blond and wispy. Now that it has darkened and filled out, Crouch says, “If I could keep it I would.”
Youhas, whose beard has grown nice and thick, says he hopes to keep his new look as long as he can.
“I’d like to try a handlebar mustache,” he said.
Roque is a veteran of “hair wars.” Pre-COVID-19, the Tustin Police Officers’ Association staged a ’Stache for Cash competition, complete with sponsors, judges, and custom trophies in a number of categories. Roque won the Cheesiest Mustache category in 2016.
Roque said he’d love to see the department get back to something like the ’Stache for Cash with beards. There has even been discussion of future “shave offs.”
According to Roque, the favorite in such an event would be J.J. Garzone, whose gray-tipped Fu Manchu won Best Mustache in 2016.
“I really appreciate the command staff letting us do this,” Roque said. “Everyone thought it was great.”
During community meetings and interactions, Roque said the beards garnered near-unanimous approval.
“As long as we provide strong service, people are supportive,” he said.
The Movember name is derived from an international organization that was created in 1999 in Australia to raise awareness about men’s health issues and fight against prostate and testicular cancer.
Cossack said he didn’t know what to expect in his first Movember, but enjoyed the experience. The best part, he said, was, “the camaraderie that’s typical to sports. You join together for a common purpose and build team spirit.”
With the arrival of December, department uniformed personnel will shed their whiskers and return to standard grooming regulations. However, next November, officers will again hope to keep their razors on the shelf for Movember 2022.