HOUSTON -- Houston Police Officer Charles Mickens wears the badge he loves, but no longer the uniform.
"I'm professional enough to do my job over the phone line, but not professional enough to appear before a citizen," said Mickens.
Mickens was recently taken off patrol and placed on desk duty because of the Houston Police Department's zero tolerance facial hair policy for uniformed officers. Critics of the policy state that it unfairly penalizes black men, like Mickens, who suffer from a painful skin condition called Pseudofolliculitis of the Beard, or POB.
"I've had it pretty much my entire adult life. Ever since I first started to shave," said Mickens.
Earlier this year, several officers filed a lawsuit against HPD regarding this issue. Both sides are in mediation.
But the mediation process has been going on for six months. This is too long for those who are against this policy. They believe other officers have been suffering in fear and silence.
"This problem is bigger than we realize because there are a lot of officers. Many of them won't speak out," said Deloyd Parker, activist.
Mickens is among the few who have.
HPD said the facial hair policy is needed so that officers can get a tight seal when they wear their gas masks.
Officials did confirm that there are on-going talks to resolve the dispute.