By Ann Marie Barron
For those who notice police officers in Morris Township looking a little scruffy this month, Chief John McGuinness wants all to know it’s for a good cause: The National Brain Tumor Society.
Twenty police officers are participating in the No Shave November fundraiser for the first time this year, foregoing shaving in memory of two members of their department community affected by brain tumors in recent years.
The officers will each contribute at least $30 to the society in exchange for the right to remain unshaven this month, according to McGuinness, who has been the chief in Morris Township since 2012. The department’s dress code is ordinarily very strict, requiring a clean-shaven face and short haircuts. Well-trimmed moustaches are the only facial hair usually permitted.
The sloppiness is something the chief is willing to overlook – this time.
“It’s a very good cause,’’ McGuinness said. “We’ve had people in our ‘family’ that have been afflicted with brain tumors in the past.’’
Those include Lindsay Gray, a former township communications officer who had become a New Jersey state trooper. Gray, 30, died of a brain tumor in January of 2013. She was the girlfriend of a township police officer at the time of her death. Before her death, Gray worked tirelessly to raise more than $40,000 for the National Brain Tumor Society, according to her obituary.
Additionally, the wife of a current township police officer was diagnosed with a brain tumor last year, the chief said. She is recovering successfully, he said, citing the family’s privacy as the reason for not disclosing her name.
The National Brain Tumor Society is fiercely committed to finding better treatments, and ultimately a cure, for people living with a brain tumor today and anyone who will be diagnosed tomorrow, according to its website, https://www.Braintumor.org.
Members of the community have also been supporting the cause, the chief said.
“I know we have donations from people in the community,’’ he said. “We are definitely encouraging that.’’
Anyone interested in donating, should send checks made out to the National Brain Tumor Society to: Chief John McGuinness, Morris Township Police Department, 49 Woodland Ave., Morris Township, N.J. 07960.
Even Morris Township’s deputy mayor, Bruce Sisler, is participating, McGuinness said. One of Sisler’s township duties includes acting as its police commissioner.
Although McGuinness is 100 percent behind the cause, he admits the officers’ untidiness makes him a bit uncomfortable.
Asked if he was worried about the community’s perception of his sloppier squad, he said: “Absolutely.”
He explains, “We want people to understand that this is a temporary fundraiser. It’s something the officers can explain themselves.’’ The chief quickly added that some trimming and grooming is still strongly encouraged.
“They’re not going to look like someone from Duck Dynasty,’’ he mused. “They still must maintain a professional look.’’
McGuinness plans to make his donation to the fund, and is completely behind the effort, but decided that he will be shaving this month. A very public schedule and several commitments make that necessary, he said.
Participation in the fundraiser, while helping fight brain tumors, also does good things for the department’s morale, McGuinness said.
“It’s something the officers are doing together and giving back to the community, which is very important,’’ he said.