Yates, Doug

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Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas (LEMIT)



Approximately three in ten Americans have at least one tattoo (Shannon-Missal, 2016). Police administrators must decide what societal expectations are when considering visible tattoos for their uniformed officers. Administrators will have to recognize that the department’s image is what is being decided upon, not whether they personally like or dislike tattoos. Allowing visible tattoos is a benefit to the officer, not the department nor the citizens served. Maintaining a policy prohibiting visible tattoos allows the department to serve all of their community members. Police administrators should develop a policy that prohibits visible tattoos for police officers in uniform. Police officers are held to a high standard, and the public job market is clear on society’s views of professional jobs (Stennett, 2012; Wallman, 2012). Additionally, police leaders still believe that tattoos can be a hindrance to professionalism (Jones, 2014). It is also difficult to decide what tattoos should be allowed, how large the tattoos can be, or if they are offensive is difficult to define. With 51% of respondents over 70 years of age stating that they did not support officers with tattoos, administrators should consider tattoo policies seriously as well as the risks of allowing them to be displayed (Shannon-Missal, 2016). With the potential negative response from citizens, visible tattoos on police officers should be avoided. A recent event prompted the Philadelphia police department to complete an internal review after the mayor called a tattoo visible on an officer as “incredibly offensive” (Philadelphia, 2016). Also, tattoos can be covered-up with several different options that are not costly. Fashion has no place in law enforcement when it comes to being professional and impartial.


Tattooing--social aspects, Police--selection and appointment