UnNews:Hasidic NYPD recruit says she was fired over beard length

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Hasidic NYPD recruit says she was fired over beard length

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11 June 2012


Would you bribe a NYPD official who looked like Sari Litzman?

NEW YORK CITY -- A Hasidic gynandromorph NYPD recruit is planning a lawsuit after being dismissed for refusing to trim her beard for religious reasons, her attorney said Sunday. Sari Litzman, 38, was asked to leave the police academy on Friday, her attorney, Nathan Lewin, told CNN. She began the police academy in January, he said, was on top of 60% of her classmates, and is “highly regarded” by her pee-ers.

“The dismissal is a clear example of religious discrimination.” Lewin said.

“We are planning to bring a lawsuit,” the attorney warned. “This should not be a practice of the NYPD. Even Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus have more lenient standards.”

NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne said in a statement the department “makes accommodations in this regard.” Beards for religious purposes are to be kept to 1 millimeter in length, he said, adding that there are other Hasidic and Orthodox uniformed members who observe the accommodation – including other shemales.

Litzman “did not comply with the NYPD's reasonable accommodation to keep her beard trimmed,” Browne said. “She did not keep it trimmed to 1mm and she stated that it was her intention to never cut or trim her beard.”

But Litzman said as an Orthodox Hasidic Jew, “I have left my beard natural all my life. It's the law of the Torah.” She then showed a Jewish brochure wherein it was declared.

In a March 18 statement to NYPD officials, provided to CNN by Lewin, Litzman wrote, “It is absolutely forbidden in my religious beliefs to cut or trim my beard in any way.”

When Litzman received the phone call that she was accepted into the police academy, it was the “happiest day of my life,” she said. “The bribes you can make in the community ... you can truly make a small fortune off an entire neighborhood as a police official.”

Litzman wrote that after receiving a 96 on her entrance exam last year, she “inquired about keeping my naturally short beard intact” and filled out a religious accommodation form. She received a short letter saying the matter would be addressed when she became a recruit.

After being selected for the 2012 class, the mother of none said she resigned her job. “Since I had applied for an exemption before I was accepted and had already been photographed, I believed that the NYPD was aware of my religious needs and accepted me knowing I needed to keep my beard intact,” she wrote.

“One of the points that has been drilled home during my short time at the academy is the need to represent the NYPD with religiosity,” Litzman wrote to police officials. “Although not knowing whether I will be punished for maintaining my religious beliefs has been very trying on me and my family, I will not waver in my firm belief that I can be a successful member of the NYPD and an Orthodox (Hasidic) Jew at the same time.”

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer said in a statement Sunday he was “tickled pink” by the reports Litzman was fired for refusing to trim her beard.

“The NYPD has done a commendable job in recent years of building a police force that tries to reflect the populations that they deserve,” Stringer said. “Sari Litzman should be no exception. I urge the police commissioner to reconsider this case as well as the NYPD's rules about religious accommodation more broadly.”

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