Kelley v. Johnson
425 U.S. 238 (1976)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Kelley v. Johnson, 425 U.S. 238 (1976)

Kelley v. Johnson

No. 74-1269

Argued December 8, 1975

Decided April 5, 1976

425 U.S. 238

Syllabus

A county regulation limiting the length of county policemen's hair held not to violate any right guaranteed respondent policeman by the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 425 U. S. 244-249.

(a) Respondent sought the protection of the Fourteenth Amendment, not as an ordinary citizen, but as a law enforcement employee of the county, a subdivision of the State, and this distinction is one of considerable significance, since a State has wider latitude and notably different interests in imposing restrictive regulations on its employees than it does in regulating the citizenry at large. P. 425 U. S. 245.

(b) Choice of organization, dress, and equipment for law enforcement personnel is entitled to the same sort of presumption of legislative validity as are state choices to promote other aims within the cognizance of the State's police power. Thus, the question is not whether the State can "establish" a "genuine public need" for the specific regulation, but whether respondent can demonstrate that there is no rational connection between the regulation, based as it is on the county's method of organizing its police force, and the promotion of safety of persons and property. P. 425 U. S. 245-247.

(c) Whether a state or local government's choice to have its police uniformed reflects a desire to make police officers readily recognizable to the public or to foster the esprit de corps that similarity of garb and appearance may inculcate within the police force itself, the justification for the hair style regulation is sufficiently rational to defeat respondent's claim based on the liberty guarantee of the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 425 U. S. 247-248.

508 F.2d 836, reversed.

REHNQUIST, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and STEWART, WHITE, BLACKMUN, and POWELL, JJ., joined. POWELL, J. filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 425 U. S. 249. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, J., joined,

Page 425 U. S. 239

post, p. 425 U. S. 249. STEVENS, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

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