Police Appearance Policy Compromises on Tattoos

September 5, 2006 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Working on a new appearance policy, a union representing police officers in Stamford, Connecticut, and the city's labor negotiators have compromised on banning visible tattoos on officers.

The Stamford Advocate reports the policy will ban visible tattoos on officers from the neck up. Officials said undercover officers who need to take on different appearances are not subject to the ban.

Officer Michael Merenda, the police union president, said he would consider a ban on all visible tattoos for recruits, but not for veteran officers, according to the news report. Merenda has a tattoo on his forearm.

Police and sheriff’s departments in San Diego, Los Angeles and Houston have put bans of all visible tattoos in place in the last three years, according to The Advocate’s research. Complete bans, in some cases, require officers to wear long sleeve shirts and long pants, even in the summer.

The policy does not ban offensive tattoos, such as the policy in Hartford, Connecticut, which bans tattoos that could be considered gang-related or offensive. A federal appellate court upheld the Hartford ban in a case brought by five officers who had spider webs tattooed on their elbows.

Stamford ‘s police chief said the department has not had a policy on officers’ appearance before. The new policy will also require officers to keep facial hair well groomed. Officers who wish to grow facial hair must do so on vacation, he said, so the public will not see the stage between clean-shaven and a full beard or mustache.