Houston Judge Tosses Beard Ban Lawsuit

HOUSTON (AP) - A judge has dismissed a lawsuit challenging the Houston Police Department's ban on beards.

Chief Harold Hurtt said in a statement Thursday that the Sept. 3 decision will allow uniformed officers to "safely do their jobs." Police say the ban is crucial for properly wearing gas masks.

Four officers sued in November, claiming the policy is discriminatory. They said it was unfair for those with a skin condition that primarily affects black men and reacts negatively to shaving.

U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal determined there was no violation of state, federal or constitutional rights.

The policy began in 1993 so officers would look professional, but it wasn't regularly enforced until gas masks were issued after the Sept. 11 attacks.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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