If you saw City of Falls Church police officers with beards during the month of November, know that they were breaking the rules for good reason. Officers with the department took the popular Movember Movement – growing out their beards for the month to raise awareness for men’s health – to a new and personal level with Beards for Buddy.
Several officers, fire marshal Tom Polera, city manager Wyatt Shields and other City staff grew out their beards throughout November to pay tribute to Buddy Turner, the department’s parking enforcement officer, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in October 2015. Last week, the officers and other City staff participated in the a “Police Shave Off” at the new Neighborhood Barbershop, which just opened for business at 417 W. Broad Street. This is the second year the department has done its Beards for Buddy tribute and Police Shave Off.
“Come November of last year, Tom Polera, who is a dear friend of Buddy’s, made us aware of Movember, the move to recognize men’s health as an important factor and growing out a beard is an outward expression of a movement,” says Mary Gavin, chief of the Falls Church Police Department. “It’s against general orders, but what I do…is I ask those who want to participate to declare their support for Buddy.”
In order to do that, officers who grow their beards out in support of their fellow officer carried around a card that said Beards for Buddy. Gavin says that Turner was with his wife when he called her to come to the station to deliver the news of his illness last year.
“It’s very personal because we’re all coworkers, but we’re all good friends,” she says. “And I feel a special kin to Buddy because he’s just a really good guy. He’s out here as a public servant and he’s just a great employee. And so I was deeply effected in that it was a very emotional time for us all.”
Gavin says that Turner has handled his cancer treatment, which consists of chemotherapy, with “great grace.” According to Gavin, Turner goes to chemo every other week and misses a day of work for treatment and then “he’s back on the road.”
In addition to growing their beards out, the officers pool together funds amongst each other to help support Turner. Last year, the officers also did a donut tour with him. But Gavin says the officers really “get a kick” out of growing their beards in uniform.
“Maybe it’s that they’re breaking a general order, which they think is really cool,” Gavin says with a laugh. “Or they just look very handsome in their beards. I have to give it to them. And you know, it’s funny, you think girls are bad about how they look and dress. I tell you, these guys, when they grow out their beards to listen to them walk around the halls and talk about other guys’ beards and stuff it’s pretty funny.”