Should officers be allowed to display tattoos on duty? Officials at Houston PD don't think so, so they've announced a new rule, effective January 1, 2006, that requires all tat-bearing Houston officers to cover their ink with their uniforms or plain clothes (no bandages or sweatbands allowed) or have them removed by laser or other treatment. Officers working undercover are exempt from the rule, but bike cops who might generally wear shorts, will now be required to wear long pants if they've got leg tattoos.
The chief, as quoted in the following article, feels the no-tat rule will better ensure that his officers present a professional image when interacting with the public. "Over the course of my career, I've seen some pretty questionable tattoos officers have," he said. The union president is concerned that the rule unfairly impacts tattooed officers who were hired before the ban and to those who got tattoos specifically for the purpose of enhancing their effectiveness as gang or narc officers. At least one of the concerns of the officers themselves is the cost of laser removal treatment.
Do tattoos make officers look unprofessional?
Should officers who have arm or leg tats be required to wear long-sleeve shirts and long pants at all times?
HOUSTON- Houston police officers will have to hide their tattoos or have the artwork removed by laser as part of a new rule to ensure a professional image.
For officers who don't remove the body art, the rule may mean wearing long-sleeved shirts year-round or, for bicycle patrol officers, wearing pants.
And removing the artwork by a laser can be expensive and time-consuming.
Effective Jan. 1, the rule also prohibits cover-ups such as a bandage or sweatband. Houston Police Department officers must cover tattoos with their official police uniforms, special assignment uniforms or plain clothes.
Police Chief Harold Hurtt said the new rule will ensure officers present a professional image when interacting with the public.
''Over the course of my career, I've seen some pretty questionable tattoos officers have,'' Hurtt said last week.
However, he said, the new rule was not a result of any specific complaints. And it will not apply to undercover officers while their working undercover.
The new policy also prohibits uniformed officers from having beards or goatees. That rule stems from the need to protect officers who have to wear breathing masks when responding to chemical or biological emergencies, officials said.
Some officers object to the rule, most because of the cost of laser removal, which is likely not covered by insurance.
''Some of these people were hired with tattoos - and now you're springing this stuff on them. Some people got tattoos as a result of the assignment they were given - gangs, narcotics,'' union President Hans Marticiuc said.
Few law enforcement agencies have policies on tattoos. But those with such rules include the Harris County Precinct 5 Constable's Office, which enacted a policy earlier this year prohibiting officers from having visible tattoos while wearing a department uniform in public.
The Baytown Police Department also bars officers in uniform from having visible tattoos but allows them to be covered with bandages or long sleeves.