Officers no longer have to cover arm tattoos

West Yorkshire Police officers can now display their arm tattoos in public after the force reversed its policy.

Aug 23, 2019
By Website Editor

Officers were previously told they could display ‘small, inoffensive and non-prominent’ tattoos on their necks and hands, but that tattooed arms had to be covered up.

The change follows 18 months of lobbying from West Yorkshire Police Federation.

West Yorkshire Police said it now allows officers and staff to display arm tattoos when wearing short sleeves.

“The exception would be where tattoos may be discriminatory or offensive, or reflect views incompatible with our organisational values and standards of behaviour. Subtle and discreet hand or neck tattoos have been allowed for some time, subject to the same conditions,” said a spokesperson.

“There may be occasions when either West Yorkshire Police or the individual themselves deem it necessary to cover tattoos, but given that they are commonplace in society, we wouldn’t want a tattoo in itself to deter individuals who may wish to join West Yorkshire Police and make a valuable contribution to our communities.”

Most forces allow officers to display tattoos although it is a decision for each chief constable. However, College of Policing Guidelines state that visible ink artwork is unacceptable only if it could be deemed “discriminatory, offensive or not comply with its Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Behaviour”.

The change in policy brings the force in line with its neighbours and a national survey showing support for officers with tattoos.

A 2018 Police Federation survey revealed the majority of officers backed its campaign; over 80 per cent of the 1,182 officers who completed the survey felt colleagues should be allowed to display inoffensive tattoos on their arms while 75 per cent felt the policy of covering up visible arm tattoos was wrong.

Eighty per cent said the policy did not represent the communities they serve. Fifty-five per cent said they had a tattoo.

Nationally, women are more likely to have a tattoo than men.

West Yorkshire Police Federation General Secretary Guy King said: “It has taken some considerable time and effort, but the force has agreed to change the policy on tattoos. They have listened to the case, and from today, West Yorkshire Police officers can now openly show their tattoos.

“This brings West Yorkshire in line with what is accepted in most other forces around the country.

“The decision to change the policy comes after continued pressure from the Federation over the last 18 months and we have long argued that the policy was bizarre and unfair, as small and non-prominent tattoos on the hands and neck were allowed to be shown but all others must be covered.

“It brings us in line with what is widely accepted within society at large and reflects the modern, diverse workforce we have,” Mr King added, “and I’d like to thank Chief Constable John Robins and his command team for listening to officers.”

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