By Mimi Wood, The Island Eye News Staff Writer
If you’ve had the opportunity to encounter one of Isle of Palm Police Department’s finest in the past month or so, you may have noticed an unusually scruffy visage, especially on the male officers.
“To date, none of our female officers have been able to grow a beard,” notes Interim Chief of Police Kim Usry.
Nonetheless, several of the IOP PD’s female officers joined their male colleagues in participating in NoShave November, a web-based non-profit initiative which raises money for cancer.
“No-Shave November is devoted to growing cancer awareness, and raising funds to support cancer prevention, research and education,” according to the organization’s website.
“We are trying to raise awareness of men’s health issues, especially prostate cancer,” states Matt Storen, IOP PD Sergeant in charge of the program since the department joined the program, last year.
The officers who chose to voluntarily participate stepped away from their razors for the month of November, reached into their pockets and paid money for the ‘privilege’ of growing a beard.
“It’s hard work for them,” explained Chief Usry, “as our dress code does not allow for beards. Therefore there’s a procedural component; they have to initiate a 30-day policy change,” in order to participate. (Female officers who participated were permitted to wear their hair “down,” not pulled back as the code requires.)
And somehow, someone has finagled that 30 days into 60; several officers are now participating in “Toys for Tots, Beards for Cops” based on the same premise. Any officer donating a new toy valued at $25 or more is entitled to keep their beards growing/locks flowing for the month of December.
Sgt. Craig Thompson, the IOP PD’s Livability Officer, who may or may not be responsible for the additional 30 days, is actively seeking an angle to extend the program through January. “NOT happening,” assures Chief Usry, “I will hold him down and shave his face.”
Joking aside, “Everyone in our department has been touched by cancer,” states Sgt. Storen. “We chose Hollings Cancer Center at MUSC as the recipient of the funds we raised as we wanted to keep it in the community, because we serve the community.”
Kelly Warren, Communications and Stewardship Coordinator at the Hollings Cancer Center, was on hand at the Public Safety Building on Dec. 4, to receive the funds.
“Hollings is the only National Cancer Institute designated cancer center in the state, and only one of 70 in the country,” Warren explained proudly. “We were recently ranked by US News and World Report as the #24 hospital for cancer care in the US. We are on the cutting edge of cancer research, and ahead of the curve in care and education. We are extremely grateful to the Isle of Palms Police Department for choosing us as their charity.”
Half of the department participated, exceeding their goal of $400 by nearly 15%.
“We intend to expand the program next year, in terms of our financial goal and outreach. We’re already looking at ways we may be able to involve the community, perhaps with ‘competitive sponsorship’ opportunities,” Sgt. Storen brainstormed. “We’re trying to think of a way for the fire department to participate. They can’t have beards because of their breathing apparatus.”
“In addition to a good cause, it’s just fun,” Sgt. Storen continued. Perhaps not fun for all…Sgt. Derrick Ambas, a 16-year veteran of the force, participated for the second year in a row, “because it’s for a good cause. But I shaved as soon as I could,” he elaborated, “It itched.”