NEW ORLEANS, LA – Starting Aug. 1, New Orleans police officers in uniform will have to cover any tattoos, says Superintendent Ronal Serpas. Union officials say the new policy could hurt morale and recruitment.
Current policy allows tattoos as long as they’re not offensive.
The new policy will require officers with any tattoos on their arms to wear long-sleeved shirts. Any officer with a tattooed neck will have to cover the ink with makeup.
New York, Los Angeles and Baltimore police have similar policies, department spokeswoman Remi Braden said. “The absence of visible tattoos gives a more professional appearance to law enforcement officers,” she said.
More than 100 officers will be affected, according to the Police Association of New Orleans.
“With the department that has all the problems we’re facing at this time — especially morale problems — tattoos in this day and age are pretty prevalent in law enforcement and society,” said PANO attorney Eric Hessler. “It just seems that this is not the issue at this particular point.”
Raymond Burkart III, attorney and spokesman for the Fraternal Order of Police, was more emphatic. “As we reach temperatures close to 100 degrees on some days, it just seems like cruel and unusual punishment, just because you are proud that you served in the U.S. Navy or you put the name of your child on your arm,” he said.
Policies vary at other Louisiana law enforcement agencies. Louisiana State Police allow visible tattoos if they are small enough to be covered by a 3-by-5-inch index card. St. Tammany Sheriff’s Office deputies are allowed to have tattoos as long as they’re not offensive. The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office allows visible tattoos but is drafting a new policy in the interest of “uniformity,” said spokesman Col. John Fortunato.
NOPD is working to retain officers and recruit new ones to a department that loses about one officer every three days, according to PANO. The department may hire only city residents.
Burkart said the department should focus on making sure officers are doing their jobs professionally, not on their appearance.
“Does the person calling 911 in an emergency situation really care whether a police officer’s tattoo is visible? They just want a police response and a timely one,” Burkart said.
From The Shreveport Times