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Police facial hair sprouting as Flossmoor’s Beard Olympics nears

  Kneeling left to right: David Levy and Hank Bausch.
  Standing left to right: Dan Weaver, Brian Tencza,
  Mark Cagle, Tod Kamleiter, Doug Merkle and Nick
  Kausal. Not pictured: Clint Wagner and Courtney
(Provided photo)

It’s the battle of the beards.

Ten Flossmoor police officers are growing facial hair for a good cause and persons attending the village’s National Night Out event on Aug. 7 will get to choose the department’s best beard.
The competition  officially it’s the Beard Olympics — will raise money for Special Olympics. It is the first time the Flossmoor department has waived its strict rules mandating clean-shaven faces.
Tod Kamleiter, Flossmoor’s deputy chief, said it’s also the first time he’s ever heard of a police department holding a beard-growing competition. He said other departments have allowed officers to grow facial hair as part of special events being celebrated in the community but that the Beard Olympics is truly unique as a fundraiser.
The village’s annual National Night Out event will take place from 5 to 8 p.m. in the village hall parking lot, 2800 Flossmoor Road.
National Night Out is designed to generate support and participation in local crime prevention awareness by strengthening the neighborhood and police community partnership.
 A number of activities are planned. Tours of the police station will be conducted and children’s games will be offered. Police Chief Michael Pulec will cook for participants and a flyover by the Chicago Police Department’s helicopter is scheduled. The village, along with the Homewood-Flossmoor Park District, is hosting a bouncy house for kids.
A Beard Olympics judging station will also be set up in the parking lot. Photos of officers with and without beards will be on display and participants will be able to vote for the best beard by making donations to Special Olympics.
“This isn’t about the longest beard,” Kamleiter said. “It’s about who has the best beard.”
The officers have been growing their beards since the Cop on a Roof event in May, which is also a Special Olympics fundraiser. Shortly before that, Kamleiter said, an officer asked about whether the department’s facial hair policy could be relaxed and that was the springboard for the competition.
Kamleiter, who is taking part in the Beard OIympics, said it’s the first time in his life that he’s had facial hair. It’s rare for any police department to allow facial hair, he said. 
“I went right from high school in to the military, then into corrections and then here,” he said, adding that many of Flossmoor’s officers have similar beard-free backgrounds.
Members of the community have reacted positively to the facial hair, he said.
“So far, so good,” Kamleiter said. “There have been mixed reviews from spouses. Some approve, some don’t.” 
Kamleiter was asked if members of the public might think that having facial hair makes police officers more accessible.
“That’s a good question,” he said. “I’d like to get some feedback on this and whether {allowing beards} might make us more approachable.”
Kamleiter said he and Clint Wagner, a sergeant on the force, recently went to Yesterday’s Gentlemen barber shop in downtown Flossmoor for a trim to their beards.
“That was fun,” he said.
The officer with the winning beard will receive a prize. But the prize still has not been selected, Kamleiter said.
“Maybe we’ll let him keep his beard,” he said.

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