Should police officers be permitted to have visible tattoos while on duty?

A question the Rice Lake Police Department recently took to the community.
Published: Mar. 16, 2021 at 6:04 PM CDT
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RICE LAKE & CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. (WEAU) -Two recent hires at the Rice Lake Police Department, has the station rethinking its policy of disallowing visible tattoos, while on duty.

“Historically we’ve had pretty tight policies on tattoos, so they just approached us and asked us if we’d be willing to put a survey out there to the public that we serve as far as what their thoughts were on them being able to display those tattoos and not have to cover them up,” says Capt. Brian Larson.

And so they did. Posted early March, the department asked the community simply, yes or no, whether officers should be permitted to have visible tattoos while working.

The poll has trafficked 6.5K responses so far.

Larson says 95% of people say it should be okay and 5% replied it should not.

“Overwhelming majority is, the public is okay with it,” says Larson.

In Chippewa Falls, Police Chief Matt Kelm says they tackled tattoos in the force, in 2018.

“It’s just become more popular among this generation, so we’re looking at getting the best candidates in the door we possibly can as a police department, so this seemed like something we should look at,” says Kelm.

After consulting the community, fellow officers and surrounding stations, Kelm says he didn’t want an inked arm to hinder recruiting qualified officers.

“We’ve hired a number of officers with tattoos, we’ve had a number of officers get tattoos and we’ve had no issues voiced to me from the community,” says Kelm. “They’re just happy the officers that come to their door or respond to their calls are professional, compassionate, that they’re the kind of people that you want serving your community as a police officer.”

Their current personal appearance policy allows tattoos as long as they are not above the collar, on the neck or below the wrist.

“When it’s 90 degrees out, and you’re standing on the blacktop at a traffic crash, it just gets kind of miserable,” says Larson.

Larson says their goal after the poll ends Thursday, is to relax their policy moving forward for officers, but still would not allow tattoos or body art that is offensive or inappropriate for the law.

The Eau Claire and Elk Mound Police Departments say their personal appearance policy, permits employees to have tattoos as long as they can be covered by an authorized uniorm.

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