A Black Texas police officer says he was reprimanded by his superiors after being told that his cornrow, braided hairstyle was unprofessional.
Dakari Davis, an officer with the Dallas Area Rapid Transit Police Department, told WFAA that his colleagues “shouldn’t judge me based on my appearance,” adding that his co-workers “know my character, you know my heart.”
Davis told the news outlet that he was left confused following the remark, stating, “To say that a Black police officer who wears cornrows is unprofessional, what does that say about you and the way you view black people that wear cornrows?”
Davis joined the DART police force in 2019 and said he never thought his appearance, which he routinely wore in a braided style, would interfere with his job performance.
“There was a particular lieutenant who disagreed with that, and he 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,” Davis revealed.
In documents obtained by WFAA, Davis was ordered not to wear the braided hairstyle while in full uniform in July 2019. Several months later, Davis chose to wear the hairstyle while dressed fully in his uniform during a DART police officer awards ceremony. In November of that year, an internal affairs investigation was launched, and once again, Davis’s “braided or cornrows hairstyle” was deemed “unprofessional” and “unapproved.”
Davis faced several allegations including, insubordination for disobeying a direct order from a supervisor and violation of the police department’s dress code policy. Subsequently, he was placed on paid administrative leave and handed a recommendation for termination and a letter of reprimand
Davis, both a father and husband, said the course of actions left him depressed, but luckily he had the support of his wife, family, and friends. He eventually contacted Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price, who intervened on Davis’ behalf. Not long afterward the department told Price that “they would handle it.” In September 2020, Davis’s letter of reprimand was rescinded with a notice sent to the Chief of Police from DART’s chief operating officer, Carol Wise.
DART Director of External Relations Gordon Shattles told the news outlet that the department would review their appearance police, stating that, “as you can imagine, times change, people have different desires.” He added, “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.”
Folks were furious to hear of Davis’ experience, including one Twitter user who wrote, “The officer who murdered Breonna Taylor didn’t lose his job, but a hairstyle is a fireable offense?”
Another person commented, “There are certain guidelines associated with wearing any type of uniforms.” They added, “That being said base on the picture the guy has had long hair for awhile, and just now the Sups are saying something. They should have said something before it got that long.”
There currently is no law making hair discrimination illegal in Texas. However, in 2019 California and New York became the first states to past the CROWN (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) Act which prohibits discrimination based on hairstyle and hair texture by extending protection for both categories under the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act and California Education Code. Seven states total have passed this law. You can learn more about the CROWN Act here.