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Home  >  Topics  >  Patrol Issues

November 26, 2007
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Va. department prohibits 'excessive' tattoos

Norfolk PD is one of many departments around the nation implementing policies regarding tattoos.


The Virginian-Pilot Daily Press

NORFOLK, Va. Tattoos on the head, face and neck are now taboo for city police.

Tattoos of naked women? Out.

Racist symbols? Forget it.


Read what PoliceOne members had to say in response to the Houston PD tattoo ban in 2006.
Police Chief Bruce P. Marquis has issued an order barring tattoos that the department considers offensive, inappropriate, or simply "excessive," defined as covering 30 percent or more of a body part that is exposed while wearing a summer uniform. And officers can't get new tattoos that would be visible while in summer uniforms.

"The public has a certain perception as to how we should physically look," Marquis said Wednesday. "We don't think the public would be real favorable to seeing individuals in uniform who are just covered from face to feet with tattoos."

Applicants to the department who have body art that's excluded by the order probably will not be hired, he said. As for officers who already have tattoos, they may be ordered to cover up any found to be "inappropriate" or "offensive" with a long-sleeved shirt or long pants.

Michael McKenna, who heads the local International Brotherhood of Police Officers unit, questioned the wisdom of the order, noting that the department is grappling with persistent staff shortages and that tattoos are in vogue.

"A lot of young people just want to get a tattoo," he said.

People like Tommy Glaser Jr., a muscle-bound man originally from Long Island, N.Y., who left the department after 6- 1/2 years as an officer. He and his father recently opened Fuzion Ink, a tattoo parlor on Granby Street.

Images of an alien, random snaking patterns and "USMC" - to recall his days as a Marine reservist - adorn Glaser's arms. A badge, "NPD" and his old badge number are inked on his digits. His back is the canvas for the crucifixion.

When Glaser was on the streets, the art led to many conversations, he said, though he was told by a higher-up that somebody once wrote a letter objecting to the appearance of his tattoos. He said they never affected his work.

"Would you want me to save your life if I have a tattoo?" he said.

Glaser and his father said many officers are among their clients, including some who rushed to get tattoos done in advance of Marquis' order.

Several years ago, when he was the chief of police in Hartford, Conn., Marquis ordered a few officers to cover up spider web tattoos, after another officer complained that they were racist symbols. The officers said the tattoos had no such message but covered them up as ordered. They filed a freedom of expression lawsuit and lost.

To date, no Norfolk officers have been told they are in violation of the new order, which went into effect in October, Marquis said.

The order also bars "dental ornamentation," body modification such as branding, stretched holes in the earlobes and jewelry in the eyebrows, tongue or nose.

And split or forked tongues?

Please.

Copyright 2007 Virginian-Pilot Daily Press

Related Articles:
Tenn. officers keep body art under wrapsConn. city can ban display of police tattoos, court saysTattoos: Official blots on reputations?
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