Westminster Police Department officers got the go-ahead once again this year to let their beards grow wild for the annual fundraising drive for men’s health known as Movember.
But unlike most agencies — which only allow this outside-regulation facial hair growth through the month of November — WPD employees got a special treat: two months of the fundraiser, into December.
“I think it’s a great cause. It goes towards men’s health. I think it’s a good team-building, camaraderie thing,” said Cpl. Alan Aoki, a Movember participant. “Our chief is really behind it.”
Chief Mark Lauderback approved the extension this year, which not only let officers grow facial hair a little longer, but potentially doubled the earnings. And it paid off.
He said the agency came in sixth in the First-Responder category out of 220 teams in the nation for the Movember Foundation, which raises awareness and funds for men’s health issues including prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health and suicide prevention.
“It’s for a good cause,” Lauderback said. “I know the guys get excited for it.”
Though the agency’s male employees are allowed to grow mustaches past the lip, goatees and beards, Lauderback pointed out that it doesn’t get too wild. No Wolverines.
“I tell them if we’re gonna do it, we gotta look like we’re on the cover of GQ magazine,” he said.
To grow a full beard, participants donate $100. A goatee runs for $50 and an out-of-regulation mustache is $25. Women can purchase Movember pins for $20. For men wishing to extend the growth into December, they needed to donate again.
“We had a lot of people doing both,” said Rachel Booth, a Westminster Police Department forensic services technician and this year’s Movember coordinator.
As of Dec. 23, the WPD had raised more than $6,000 for the cause. Last year’s total was just over $4,000.
“I have found that there’s more people participating in it,” she said. “It’s a cool thing.”
For many at the agency, Movember is more than just a reason to grow a beard.
“We actually have a police officer who survived prostate cancer at the PD with us,” Booth said, adding that there are also some breast cancer survivors at the agency.
Booth’s husband, Officer Steve Booth, who has served as the Movember coordinator in previous years, said the fundraiser is personal for him.
“I lost my aunt to cancer, my grandfather as well,” he said. “(It’s) just a good way to raise awareness. A lot of Orange County agencies around here participate as well.”
Rachel Booth already has plans in the works for next year involving some patches.
“It brings a neat camaraderie to the police department,” she said.
And a bit of competition, too. Last year the agency held its inaugural Golden Broom Awards for Best Mustache, Best Goatee, and Best Beard.
“They get competitive about it,” she said. “It’s fun.”