A recent study estimates that nearly half of all Americans have at least one tattoo. As body artwork continues to become more common, workplaces are forced to relax their policies around tattoos. The idea that tattoos impact professionalism is slowly being erased. Even heavily regulated and uniformed careers like law enforcement are easing up on tattoo bans. Police departments nationwide are revising their dress codes in favor of visible ink.
While this is generally good news for anyone aspiring to a law enforcement career, applicants should still be wary of police department tattoo guidelines. Each town and city is charged with creating its dress code, meaning tattoo regulations vary amongst departments.
Each township regulates its police department tattoo policies. As a result, each city has varying dress code expectations. For example, some departments prohibit visible tattoos and require officers to conceal their ink with makeup clothing. Other law enforcement tattoo policies are more lax and allow tattoos with minimal restrictions.
However, there are some similarities across all police departments.
If you are considering a career as a police officer, it is always best to review law enforcement tattoo policies in each location you’d like to serve. Not only will this increase your chance of employment, it will also make it easier to avoid disciplinary actions.
Violations of dress code can vary from verbal warnings to official write-ups. Continued disregard of tattoo policies can prevent career advancement and even lead to termination.
Law enforcement tattoo policies are not federally regulated, so each department is free to establish its own guidelines and rules. Tattoo restrictions are included in police dress code policies. Limitations are enforced to create an image of professionalism and uniformity.
Police tattoo policies vary greatly, with some departments banning visible ink altogether. Others are much more lenient and only enact content restrictions on body art. To better understand the similarities and differences between law enforcement tattoo regulations, check out the police officer tattoo policy from each of the largest police departments in the United States, including the NYPD and LAPD.
New York City is one of the most diverse cities in the US, so it is no surprise that the NYPD tattoo policy is relatively lenient. Its dress code notes two specific restrictions:
Overall, the New York City Police Department tattoo policy relates more to what ink represents than where the tattoo is located. In addition, officers can submit a tattoo waiver request to dispute any ink deemed “banned” by the department. If your tattoos violate the NYPD’s policy, easy compliance solutions include bandaids, full-coverage makeup, and laser tattoo removal.
Don’t let your tattoos stop you from applying to the LAPD! The Los Angeles Police Department prohibits visible ink while on duty, but officers can wear additional clothing or makeup to achieve compliance. Each LAPD candidate with tattoos is evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Expect to be questioned about the meaning of your tattoo and why you chose to get it. Most body art is given the green light as long as it can be concealed by the uniform and doesn’t violate content restrictions. Tattoos depicting gang, criminal, racist, or other discriminatory artwork are strictly forbidden.
The Chicago Police Department is an excellent choice for individuals who love tattoos and are interested in a job in law enforcement. In 2016, the Chicago PD dress code policy was amended to allow visible ink on all officers. While face tattoos are still heavily discouraged, body art on the arms, hands, and neck are generally okay. Of course, like all law enforcement tattoo policies, the Chicago PD has zero tolerance for tattoos with explicit sexual content, derogatory language, criminal or gang affiliation, and discriminatory art.
The Houston Police Department is widely accepting of tattoos. Their dress code policy outlines a few limitations, such as:
Overall, the Houston Police Department has a very lenient tattoo policy. Officers can display ink on their hands, arms, or legs in uniform. As with most law enforcement tattoo policies, the content of the tattoo is more important than the location!
The Phoenix Police Department’s tattoo policy has been greatly debated amongst government officials and police union representatives. The PPD widely discourages visible tattoos on officers in uniform; however, due to the increased popularity of body artwork, it isn’t realistic to ban all ink. Regulations suggest covering ink with flesh-colored bandage wraps, full-coverage makeup, or extra layers of clothing. However, due to the extreme heat in Phoenix, many police officers pushed back on this requirement. As a result, the PPD tattoo policy was slightly amended but still has very clear-cut guidelines, such as:
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Complying with tattoo policies can be challenging for law enforcement officers. It is especially difficult for new recruitments with existing body artwork. But as long as permanent ink doesn’t have inappropriate content, there are ways to comply with even the strictest tattoo policy. For example, officers can:
Understanding the tattoo policy of the police department you want to work for is critical. Many tattoo concealment options are effective but inconvenient, especially in hot climates. So, if you are considering a career as a police officer, it’s wise to keep potential dress code restrictions in mind before committing to permanent ink. Violating police department tattoo guidelines can limit career advancement and result in disciplinary action.
Since police tattoo policies vary by department, how can you determine your town’s guidelines? The best and most accurate resources are on the city government or police department website. Check out the FAQ section on the police hiring page to determine which tattoos are (or aren’t) allowed on the force. In addition, most police departments offer recruitment fairs where prospective candidates can talk to officers and ask questions. These events are an excellent opportunity to get clarity on department policies.
If you dream of working as a police officer but have tattoos that violate department regulations, consider laser tattoo removal. Removery is a leading provider of laser tattoo removal and offers exclusive discounts for clients removing ink for employment compliance. Visit one of Removery’s convenient tattoo removal locations for a free consultation and explore treatment options. Most tattoos are eligible for complete removal – even artwork on the face! So, if you want to break from tattoos holding back your career aspirations, call Removery. Their knowledgeable staff is ready to help you achieve your tattoo goals.
See US Navy Tattoo Policy
See US Air Force Tattoo Policy
See USMC Tattoo Policy
See US Coast Guard Tattoo Policy
See US National Guard Tattoo Policy