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Why do many forces have an old-fashioned attitude towards tattoos?

Monday, 08 August 2016

Chief Inspector Victoria Martin, PFEW Interim National Board member and North East region representative, is investigating what some might consider an archaic attitude to police officers with tattoos. 

These days, one in five people have a tattoo; in young adults it’s as many as one in three, so why are we as a police service still adopting old fashioned attitudes?

Many forces are taking a tougher and less tolerant line on tattoos, and tightening up the rules on what can and can’t be displayed, requiring tattooed officers to wear long sleeves on hot summer days and under body armour.

But is this in touch with the real world? Tattoos are commonplace these days and just because someone has one doesn’t mean they can’t do a job.

If a blanket ban on visible tattoos is adopted, we as a police service risk missing out on a generation of able, talented and committed officers just because they are inked.

Anecdotally I am being told that recruitment departments often get more calls from potential candidates asking about tattoos than about qualifications. Surely this can't be right?

I am not recommending we all go out and get full sleeve tattoos, nor that we would want anything which could be offensive to be displayed, but we need to be sensible about this and open minded. Walk around any town centre and you’ll see more people with tattoos than ever before. We keep saying we want to recruit people who think differently and that we won’t discriminate - so isn’t it time to update our views?

If we truly want to embrace diversity, and we want to widen the talent pool we can recruit from, then forces need to be more open-minded, so communities have a police service that reflects today’s society.

I am pretty sure the public want an officer who is competent and professional, and won’t mind if the person who comes to help them has a tattoo. Surely it is better to have the right people for the job based on ability and competence, rather than judged on looks and perceptions?

We’re currently working to stimulate debate on the issue, and gather evidence and public attitudes towards tattooed officers. If you have any views on this subject and would like to contribute to the debate, please email me victoria.martin@polfed.org

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