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Residents who happen upon Westminster PD officers this month might notice something a little different about them: a significant amount of facial hair.
Normally clean shaven – mustaches are allowed, according to policy, but not past the upper lip – WPD officers are given a reprieve from the razor for the month of November, or more accurately, Movember, for the sake of men’s health.
In its fourth year now, the agency has been participating in a fundraiser through The Movember Foundation, which along with partners including Livestrong Foundation and Prostate Cancer Foundation, raise awareness and funds for men’s health issues including prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health and suicide prevention.
“It’s a great way to just kind of give back,” said WPD Officer Christian Hernandez, who along with other officers gathered on a recent Thursday afternoon, was looking a little more hairy.
The WPD’s Movember Team 47POA raised $3,885 last year for the cause, but the team hopes to surpass that this year by month’s end and hit $5,000, according to Officer Steve Booth, who is this year’s Movember coordinator.
WPD officers who participate in Movember can grow facial hair based on their donation amount: $25 grants them permission to grow an out-of-policy mustache, $50 allows a goatee and $100 grants a well-groomed beard. Women can participate too – for a $20 donation they receive a blue mustache pin that can be worn during the month.
“The main reason I participate is my dad,” said Kelly Howenstein, who works in code enforcement. About six years ago he was diagnosed with prostate cancer during a routine checkup. He is a survivor, and is now very outspoken about the cause, including speaking on talk shows, she said.
Howenstein isn’t the only WPD employee who has a male family member who was impacted by cancer. Several of the officers participating commented that they had a father or grandfather who had been diagnosed.
In fact, Sgt. Dave Ferronato is himself a cancer survivor.
“I just think it’s a good morale builder, it brings everyone together to focus on a big topic for men – which is cancer awareness,” said Ferronato of Movember.
The month raises awareness and funds for a serious topic, but there are also other repercussions of a little extra facial hair.
“It’s kind of an ice breaker too with the public,” said Booth.
Officer Jon Bell added, “It makes police officers more approachable.”
After first doing a double-take, community members might walk up to officers to ask about the hair growth, and as a result learn about the cause.
For many of the officers it’s been the first time they’ve been able to grow a beard in many years.
“I didn’t know how it was gonna look,” said Bell.
And given the competitive nature of many officers, they don’t miss an opportunity to get in a few digs at other officers who aren’t growing beards as fast.
“Everybody kind of makes fun of everybody,” said Bell.
But it’s all in good fun and for a great cause. And there’s one other added benefit.
“Saved a couple dollars on razors for the month,” said Sgt. Donnie Webb.
For more information on Movember or to donate, go here.
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