Dakari Davis, an African American police officer with the DART Police Department in Dallas, Texas, says he is upset and confused after being told that his braided hairstyle is “unprofessional” by a lieutenant, which ultimately led to him being reprimanded.
Davis, who began serving in law enforcement in 2019, says that he could not believe it when one of his superiors judged his ability to do his job based on his appearance.
He said a particular lieutenant “felt that it was unprofessional for male police officers to wear cornrows and contacted the Chief of Police and eventually filed a formal complaint against my hairstyle,” according to WFAA.
Davis was, in fact, ordered not to wear the hairstyle while in full uniform in July 2019, documents revealed. But when he wore the hairstyle again during a DART police officer awards ceremony, an internal affairs investigation was conducted in November 2019.
“I actually decided to cut my hair out of fear of retaliation, I said, ‘you know what, I have a son, I need to provide for them, I’m just going to cut my hair,’” Davis said.
After the investigation, his “braided or cornrow hairstyle” was referred to as “unprofessional and unapproved.” A complaint against him listed five allegations including insubordination for disobeying a direct order from a supervisor and violation of the police department’s dress code policy.
Davis was then placed on administrative leave and he received a recommendation for termination and a letter of reprimand. Davis, who always dreamed to protect and serve, said he became depressed at that time.
He eventually reached out to Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price, who thankfully supported him. The letter of reprimand was rescinded in September 2020 and a notice was sent to the Chief of Police from DART’s Chief Operating Officer, Carol Wise. He was also put back to his full assignment as a motorcycle officer without restrictions.
Most recently, DART has been reviewing its appearance policy, stating that it is done as “times change, people have different desires.”
“We understand that you want to be able to work your job, also you want to be able to present a bit of yourself and to present yourself in a particular way,” said Gordon Shattles, DART Director of External Relations.
While Davis is relieved that there have been more discussions regarding the issue, he said it is also important to acknowledge the underlying bias about hairstyles in the workplace.
“If you know me and I wear this uniform and stand right beside you and you view me in that manner, what does that say about you and how you view someone who doesn’t wear this uniform?” Davis asked.