As modern American culture evolves, police culture oftentimes lags in keeping pace. The wearing of tattoos is just one example of this dynamic. The history of tattoos dates back thousands of years and they have been used for everything from body art, identification symbols and as symbols in warrior cultures.
In the last 50 years the tattoo was often looked upon as a negative. Tattoos were associated with a rougher sub-culture such as military types, longshoremen, construction workers and bikers to name a few.
Fast forward to the present day and it seems that people from every socio-economic strata of society are getting tattoos. Tattoos are looked upon as a form of body art to be shown off and as such, have lost much of the social stigma they once had. Don’t believe me? Look no further than your local Toys R’ Us where you can buy a Tattoo Barbie for your daughter.
As stated in a recent ENS, the Department is changing the long-standing tattoo policy effective the end of August. I guess this is the biggest issue we have on the Phoenix Police Department; it must be just a figment of my imagination that the Department is still in shambles with no leadership. The 4th floor originally wanted to change the policy in April of 2009. PLEA was successful in getting this new tattoo policy delayed for over 29 months or almost two and a half years! The bottom line is even though the 4th floor has, in effect, given silent assent to officers getting tattoos and allowed the officers to show the tattoos on their arms and hands for over 10 years, there is nothing that prohibits them from reversing their past practices on this particular issue. Management appears consistently inconsistent and the hard working officers are the ones who get the shaft once again.
This new policy is the brainchild of recently retired Assistant Chief Andy Anderson. Thank you Andy for another poor decision that affects the hard working rank and file officers on the street as you walked out the door. Too bad interim Police Chief Joe Yahner didn’t have the leadership ability to quash this ill-advised policy. I guess ten years of past practice means nothing to the 4th floor. The bottom line is that court rulings on the issue are very clear; the Department has a right to force officers to cover up tattoos regardless of any past practices.
PLEA offered many reasonable compromises such as grand-fathering in existing tattoos and making officers cover up new ones, among other suggestions. The 4th floor demonstrated their unwillingness to compromise at every turn and they refused to move a single inch with regard to their position, although you won’t be required to cover a tattoo as long as it can be covered by a 3 x 5 card. Like his predecessor, interim Chief Joe Yahner seems to be focusing on the same policies that do nothing to make the City any safer. Oh, and by the way, there has not been a single verified complaint from citizens regarding tattoos on officers. Let’s keep putting Band-Aids on paper cuts as the Department continues to major on the minor.