The Old and New Policies of Tattoos in Law Enforcement
Over the years tattoos have become more accepted in our society and in the profession, someone has chosen. It’s not just hair dressers or bartenders anymore who proudly present a sleeve or behind-the-ear tattoos. Nowadays you can find authority figures rocking a sleeve.
If you’d like to seek a career in law enforcement, and you have tattoos that can be concealed with clothing, you are in luck. Here’s a list of popular law enforcement jobs that accept tattooed applicants, with some exceptions in regards tattoos listed below.
Marine Corps - The Marine Corps released a new policy in 2016 that was updated in regards visible tattoos, according to theMarine Corps. As stated,
“Marines are prohibited from getting tattoos on the head, neck, inside the mouth, wrists, knees, elbows, and hands with exception of a single band tattoo of no more than three-eighths of an inch in width on one finger”
“Marines can get only one lower arm tattoo, which has to be at least one inch below the center of the elbow and two inches above the wrist bone.”
“Marines are allowed either an authorized band tattoo, a single tattoo or a collection of tattoos which can be covered by the individual Marine’s hand with their fingers extended and joined with the thumb flush against the side of the hand.”
“Visible upper leg tattoos may extend down and around the leg on all sides no closer than two inches above the center of the knee when the leg is straight but must not be larger than the individual Marine’s hand with their fingers extended and joined with the thumb flush against the side of the hand.”
“Marines can get only one lower leg tattoo, which has to be at least two inches below the center of the knee. Marines are allowed either an authorized band tattoo, a single tattoo or a collection of tattoos which can be covered by the individual Marine’s hand with their fingers extended and joined with the thumb flush against the side of the hand.”
Keep in mind, that if any Marines violate those new rules, they are able to finish their tour but are refused to do another. However, any Marine who has been there before the new policy got introduced, is not affected by the change. But all Marines, especially newcomers have to get informed and educated about the new tattoo policy, by their commanders.
AFP PHOTO/Johannes EISELE (Photo credit should read JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. Army - The tattoo policy for the U.S. Army is similar to the rules of the Marines with a few more specific points according to theirTattoo & Body Manual, as well as their manual about Body Modification. As stated,
“Examples of body mutilation include, but are not limited to:
- Tongue bifurcation (splitting of the tongue)
- Ear gauging (enlarged holes in the lobe of the ear which Ear gauging (enlarged holes in the lobe of the ear, which are beyond the post hole size for conservative earring wearer no more than 1 6mm) wearer, no more than 1.6mm)
- Unnatural shaping of the teeth Unnatural shaping of the teeth
- Ear pointing (or elfing)
- Scarification (cutting to create intentional scarring)
- Body modifications for the purpose of suspension Body modifications for the purpose of suspension (hanging by body hooks) (hanging by body hooks)”
Soldiers who have been serving before the new policy took place are not affected, however, if they decide to get a new tattoo the new policy will also apply to them. As stated in the manual,
“Policy is equal for accessions and current Soldiers;
- Current Soldiers may keep previously authorized tattoos (grandfathered).
- Redefined indecent tattoos
- Added restrictions for locations for unauthorized tattoos
- Soldiers’ current tattoos will be documented in online records to protect
- Soldiers with grandfathered tattoos and aid with implementing this policy and aid with implementing this policy”
Air Force - The Air Force, on the other hand, dismissed most rules according toMilitary.com. Although, neck, head, scalp, face, lips and tongue tattoos are still banned, the “25 percent rule,” which used to limit tattoos that cover more than a quarter of a visible body part, got eliminated.
New airmen can get any size on their chest, arms, legs and back, as long it’s not an offensive and obscene tattoo within the guidelines. According toAirForce.com,
“TATTOOS, BRANDS, AND PIERCINGS
Airmen are subject to strict requirements and restrictions pertaining to body modifications. If you plan to get a tattoo or other body modifications, carefully consider placement, size, and content before you proceed. Tattoos, brands or piercings anywhere on the body that are prejudicial to good order and discipline, or of a nature that may bring discredit upon the Air Force, are prohibited both in and out of uniform. This includes modifications that are obscene or advocate sexual, racial, ethnic or religious discrimination. Even if rectified, excessive scarring resulting from tattoo removal may also be disqualifying. Tattoos are not completely disqualifying, however. There are no size or area limitations for authorized tattoos on the chest (below an open collar), back, arms, and legs. Tattoos, brands, and body markings are prohibited on the head, neck, face, tongue, lips, and scalp. Hand tattoos are limited to one single-band ring tattoo, on one finger, on one hand.”
Lt. Comdr. Charles Fenno Jacobs (1904-1975) for the U.S. Navy
(Photo: ©General Photographic File of the Department of Navy. National Archives and Records Administration)
U.S. Navy - The Navy released a new set of rules that became effective on April 30, 2016, and gives the most of leeway when it comes to tattoos in law enforcement, according toThe Navy Times. Sailors are allowed to get their sleeves tattooed, wrist tattoos, even hand and neck tattoos, or behind the ear if it’s small, not more than 1 inch. As stated, the new policy will allow sailors to have:
“Have multiple or large tattoos below the elbow or knee, including the wrists and hands, effectively allowing sleeve tattoos that can be seen even while wearing short sleeve uniforms."
Photo by The LIFE Picture Collection.
"Have one tattoo on their neck, which includes behind the ear, and it may not exceed 1 inch in length or height in either or both directions. Sailors with visible tattoos will now be eligible for recruiting duty or leading recruits at boot camp in Great Lakes, Illinois. These tough assignments often give sailors a leg up to make rank. “
Police Officer - Serving your state as a police officer, you are required to mostly follow the law enforcement rules requested for the Marine Corps, and the U.S. Army, however, you still might have a lot more leeway when it comes to the rest of your body. As an officer (it also varies from state to state) you are usually not limited to size, but the design and the meaning of the tattoo, as well as location (hands, neck, head tattoos are off limits).
Photo by Mikey B
According toTim Dees, a retired cop of the Reno Police Department, and criminal justice professor.
“Policies vary on this. Some departments appear to allow full-sleeve tattoos so long as there is no offensive content (swastikas, racial slurs, obscene words or pictures, etc.), and some permit no visible tattoos at all.”
Photo by Michael Counihan