The Need for Appearance Standards in Regards to Facial Hair, Hairstyles, and Tattoos




Hickey, Paul

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas (LEMIT)



Law enforcement agencies are tasked with providing competent and professional police services to the public for which they serve. The officers' appearance factors into the judgment and perception the public formulate when interacting with officers. Each community establishes the standards for which they expect from their public servants. Therefore, it is critical police departments be allowed to control the appearance standards of their employees. Appearance includes, yet is not limited to, hair length, hair style, facial hair, and tattoos. Departments should outline these standards in a specific policy while refraining from vague or misleading language, which can lead to possible litigation. Agencies are allowed to set standards yet should take into consideration what is acceptable for the public, the agency, and the employees. Agencies that restrict all facial hair, head hairstyles, and tattoos may find the policy easier to defend than allowing the different tattoos and hairstyles as long as they are not offensive. This policy may be easier to defend in legal proceedings than the latter. If a stricter policy is decided upon than accommodations should be considered that would still allow for a professional appearance yet reasonable for officers to maintain. For instance, if no tattoos are to be visible officers should be afforded the opportunity for breathable sleeves or bandages. If hair length is restricted for females, then a clause could be placed in the policy allowing for hair length as long as the hair can be placed in a bun or similar style that prevents the hair from interfering with the officer's functions and safety. In allowing accommodations, this could assist in the recruitment and retention of officers.


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