For eleven months out of the year, the Washington Township Police Department strictly adheres to personal appearance clause 5:4.11 which states officers are supposed to be clean shaven unless authorized by the chief of police. For the past three years, November has been an exception to the rule.
For the low cost of $25, a Washington Township police officer can grow a moustache and/or beard in the month of November to celebrate “Movember,” which raises awareness to men’s health issues such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer, suicide and mental health.
“We’re raising funds and awareness this Movember for all the dads, brothers and sons in our lives,” Chief of Police Pat Gurcsik said. “It’s a fun way to rally the troops and raise funds.”
This month-long exercise is a morale booster in Gurcsik’s eyes.
“It’s awesome for morale, it’s so important. It helps with productivity,” he said. “It generates conversation about men’s health, causes, prostate cancer, testicular cancer and suicide in men.”
“A lot of guys enjoy it because we’re used to being clean shaven and polished, looking as clean cut as possible. It’s surprising to see the impressive beards some guys can grow,” PBA local 310 President Alex DiPietro said. “All in all, spreading men’s health, interacting with the public, helps with community policing.”
When a newly mustachioed police officer is seen in town, the facial hair is viewed as a conversation starter. It opens the door to talk about men’s health, which is half the battle to starting a dialogue.
“Movember venerates conversations about men’s health,” Gurcsik said. “Prostate cancer is common in males. Men 50 and older are supposed to talk to their doctor about prostate cancer and get a PSA test. One of the reasons it’s important to me is because my brother-in-law was diagnosed with prostate cancer two years ago. Early detection is key to surviving this type of cancer.”
According the the Movember website, www.Movember.com, it has funded more than 1,200 men’s health projects since 2003 and raised more than $700 million dollars in that same time frame. The website boasts its goal to reduce the number of men dying prematurely by 25 percent by 2030. Its action plan is to give men the facts, change behavior for the better, create services that work for men, unite the brightest minds and listen to the community and advocate for men.
This year Gurcsik anticipates 80 officers will take part, and at the time of publication, his agency has generated approximately $2,000 for a to-be-determined-cause. Two years ago the proceeds were donated to a family whose son was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. Last year the funds were used to purchase turkeys for Mother’s Cupboard, the township’s food pantry, in preparation for Thanksgiving. Fundraising brings the two world’s together – where the umbrella cause is to raise awareness for men’s health problems, the physical donations will stay local which is paramount to Gurcsik’s agency.
“It’s good for multiple aspects. It promotes mental health and knowledge of men’s specific cancer, suicide and things that affect men’s health,” DiPietro said. “We take the money raised and put it back in the community. The town gives us a lot and we try to pay it forward.
“We like to keep it local, always looking for ways to give back.”