Tattoos in Law Enforcement




Garivey, Raymond

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas (LEMIT)



In the last 25 years, tattoos have become increasingly popular for more reasons than one; they can display self-expression, rebellion, or for some, are just a result of getting in on the latest fashion fad. Within the professional realm, the appropriateness of tattoos being displayed in the workplace has caused some controversy. There are many professional institutions that have modified their policies to reflect the acceptance of the growing popularity of tattoos, by now allowing visible body art in the workplace. There are others, who based on the industry, have upheld their decision to restrict tattoos. Particularly in law enforcement, there is a higher standard associated with the field, making it harder for agencies to modify their rules to adapt to the latest tattoo fad (Roufa, 2018). Consequently, tattoos should not be visible while in uniform. Company dress codes are normally derived from the type, and frequency, of interactions between the employee and the customer/client (Heathfield, 2018). In a field where individuals are public servants, and building relationships with citizens is of utmost importance, there is a need to maintain a particular image. Since first impressions are made based on physical appearance and have a lasting impact, a proactive approach is establishing a dress code that governs appropriate attire, (Johnson, 2017). Policing is a people based business, which requires appearance policies to be strictly enforced. Officers are role models within communities and must positively portray the part. Officers are authority figures held to higher ethical standards than any other profession, and this must be reflected in their appearance. To maintain the public’s confidence, and in the best interest of the department image, visible tattoos in law enforcement should be outlawed.


Tattooing--Social aspects, Police--Selection and appointment