Dallas Police Department to require that officers cover tattoos

Although tattoo removal is our business, and the new DPD regulation might actually increase our business, I would like to go on record stating the we adamantly oppose the new rule and hope that the department reconsiders. Not only should they allow our men and women in blue to express themselves in the manner they see fit, but for their health and well being, not require them to wear long sleeves during the sweltering summer months.

-Allen Falkner

06:42 AM CDT on Wednesday, July 22, 2009
By TANYA EISERER / The Dallas Morning News

The next time you see a Dallas police officer wearing a long-sleeved shirt when it’s hotter than a furnace outside, it may be because he or she is hiding something.

A tattoo.

The department is planning to require police officers to cover up their tattoos, even if it means wearing makeup or a skin-colored patch over a hard-to-obscure place such as the neck or wrist.

A lot of officers are coming in with tattoos, said Lt. Andrew Harvey, a police spokesman.

It’s more normal now than it ever has been, he said but added that the department wants officers to display a more professional image.

The department’s personnel division is drawing up the official policy. It could go into effect as soon as this summer.

The old rules are silent on tattoos and state only that employees must present a neutral and uniform image to effectively relate to all segments of the population they serve.

The department largely left it up to the individual commander to decide whether an officer needed to cover tattoos.

A number of other cities also require officers to cover tattoos, including Los Angeles, Arlington and Houston, though they typically exempt officers working undercover. This is in stride with what other cities are doing, Harvey said.

Officer Nick Novello has four tattoos on his arms, including an American Indian on his right forearm that was there when he was hired by the city in 1982. He said he believes the department should consider grandfathering in current officers and thinks it’s a mistake to have an across-the-board policy.

If I got hired in 1982 and had that tattoo on my forearm, how can you expect me to cover my tattoo up in 2009? Novello asked. If you have to cover up your arms, they’re going to have a lot of problems staying hydrated. You put a guy in long sleeves and he’s not going out of the car unless it’s an absolute emergency during the hot summer months.

Novello, who also has an eagle bursting out of an American flag on his left arm, said he can understand requiring officers to cover up tattoos if they are offensive in some way.

In culture at large, tattoos are extremely prevalent, he said. We’re not divorced from society at large.

Another officer, who asked that his name to be published because he feared retaliation, said he’s worn a long-sleeved uniform for years because his tattoos cover his entire arms. But he said a portion of the tattoos still peeks out on his left hand.

Are they going to make me wear gloves or makeup? he said.

He suggested that a more reasonable approach would be to require officers to cover tattoos if they cover a certain percentage of the body part or if the tattoos are larger than a specified size.

What are you going to do with that guy who is 300 pounds, and you put him in long sleeves in the heat of summer, and he drops out on you? the officer said. There’s other alternatives than saying everybody with tattoos has to cover it.