Tattoos have become so mainstream that even police departments are changing their policies to allow officers to have them.
With as many as nearly half of adult Americans reported to have at least one tattoo, it’s not surprising that the police have had to change their tune when it comes to ink. After all, they need new recruits and they don’t want to turn away qualified candidates because of a few tattoos.
So, what’s the new police tattoo policy? Can you be a cop with a tattoo?
Well, it varies from department to department. If you’ve been considering a career in law enforcement and have some tattoos, stay with us for a short while to learn what to expect in general.
Police Tattoo Policy – All You Need to Know
As already mentioned, the tattoo policy isn’t regulated by any federal law. So, it’s up to each individual police department to make its own rules.
With 50 states and 3143 counties in the United States, it would be impossible to list all the tattoo policies here. We’ll just give you a general idea of what to expect in most cases.
The first thing you need to know is that having a tattoo doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be hired by the police – not anymore. In fact, all police departments in the country accept applicants with tattoos – with different restrictions in place regarding tattoo styles, sizes, and, most importantly, placement.
So, do police officers have to cover up tattoos?
Yes, in many cases this is a requirement.
For example, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) allows officers to have tattoos as long as they’re covered by the uniform (read: LAPD tattoo policy).
The NYPD has a very similar policy in place, with the exception of small band tattoos on hands/fingers that don’t exceed 3/8 inch in size (read: NYPD tattoo policy).
Of course, there are plenty of police departments in the US that allow for more visible tattoos. The Fairfax County Police in Virginia, for example, has a very relaxed policy when it comes to ink – as long as the tattoos are not on the face, neck, or hands.
Types of Tattoos With Countrywide Ban
While individual police departments will differ in their approaches to visible tattoos, there are some cases where tattoos are outright banned.
This relates to tattoos that are considered to be racist, sexist, or obscene.
Any ink that can be associated with gangs, violence, or illegal activities is also a big no-no. The same goes for tattoos that contain profanity. In short, any tattoo that could reflect negatively on the department will most likely get you rejected.
Working as a policeman, you’re a role model for the community. As such, you’re expected to maintain a certain level of decorum and respectability.
So, if you have any tattoos that could be considered offensive in any way, it’s best to get them removed before applying to the police.
Police Officers & Tattoos: the History
Historically, tattoos and the police haven’t always been a good match.
For most of the 20th century, having any visible tattoos was a surefire way to get rejected by the police.
The thinking behind this was that tattoos were associated with gangs and other criminal elements. They were also seen as unprofessional and unbecoming of an officer.
This started to change in the late 1990s when the first police departments began to loosen their restrictions on officers with visible tattoos.
Since then, the number of police departments with more relaxed policies has grown exponentially. In fact, it’s estimated that more than half of all law enforcement agencies in the US now accept applicants with visible tattoos.
Police and Tattoos: FAQ
We hope that by now you have a good idea of what to expect in terms of the police tattoo policy across the US.
To round up, below find some of the most frequently asked questions on the subject.
Can police officers have tattoos on their forearms?
Yes, in most cases they can.
Forearm tattoos are generally allowed as long as they’re not offensive. However, a large chunk of police departments requires officers to cover up their ink while on duty.
Can police officers have tattoos on their arms?
Arm tattoos are definitely more welcome than forearm tattoos since in most cases they’re not visible when the officer is wearing the uniform.
Can police officers have tattoos on their necks?
This depends on the department. In some cases, neck tattoos are completely banned, while in others they’re only allowed if they can’t be seen when the officer is wearing a collar.
Why do cops have tattoos?
Police with tattoos are as common nowadays as police without tattoos. In fact, many officers get inked while they’re already working for the department.
There are plenty of reasons why cops would want to get a tattoo. It could be for personal reasons, such as honoring a family member or paying tribute to fallen comrades.
In some cases, tattoos can also help officers identify with certain groups within the department (e.g. SWAT team members often have matching tattoos).
Can the FBI have tattoos?
Yes, FBI agents can have tattoos. However, they need to be small and discreet, and they can’t be visible when the agent is wearing a short-sleeved shirt.
The police tattoo policy has changed a lot in recent years and it’s becoming more and more accepting of ink. However, there are still individual police tattoo rules which focus on some restrictions regarding the type, size, and placement of tattoos.
Just to recap, each police department has its own rules and regulations regarding tattoos. Some are more lenient than others, but in general, most departments will allow officers to have tattoos – as long as they’re not visible while on duty.
If you’re considering a career in law enforcement and have some tattoos, be sure to do your research and find out the specific policy of the department you’re applying to. In most cases, as long as your tattoos are not offensive in any way, you should be fine.