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Orchard Park police grow goatees to raise money for Justice Center

That might be more than a five o’clock shadow you see on the faces of Orchard Park police soon, as some officers will be hanging up their razors for a good cause.

Police Chief Mark Pacholec is suspending the department’s restriction on facial hair, and allowing officers of the mostly male department to grow goatees for three months.

They will pay $100 for the privilege, and money will go to the Family Justice Center of Erie County.

The center opened a satellite office on the campus of Orchard Park Presbyterian Church nearly two years ago, and the organization is “very important to us,” he said. The center brings the services needed by victims of domestic violence together in a single location where women and men can get the assistance they need discreetly and efficiently.

“Our dealings with people who have domestic problems, or emotionally disturbed or chemical problems, it’s increasing,” Pacholec said. “We can do better, we have to find a way to help these people and reach out to them.”

The chief said some officers had approached him about making a change in the rules and regulations, which he did not oppose.

“But I said if we’re going to do this, we’re going to do this as a way to raise funds for charity,” he said.

Starting today, officers will be able to grow their beards past the bristle stage into a goatee. They will have about three months to style the perfect Van Dyke. He expects 15 to 20 officers, including himself and Assistant Chief E. Joseph Wehrfritz, to participate.

Three judges – town Supervisor Janis Colarusso, former supervisor and executive director of the Family Justice Center Mary Travers Murphy and Orchard Park Village Trustee Jo Ann Litwin – will determine the best and worst goatees in mid-December.

Pacholec said dispatchers would be invited into the contest, although they would be asked to contribute less than $100 because they earn less than officers.

“We’re also hoping this will encourage other police departments to maybe consider the same option to help the Family Justice Center,” Colarusso said.

“The relationship we have with the town and the with law enforcement and Orchard Park police out here, especially with our satellite office out here, is crucial to us,” Tiffany Szymanek, development director for the Justice Center, said. “This is a wonderful way to say to the community as well we are a unified front with regard to domestic violence.”