Starting Jan. 1, Houston police officers will not be allowed to display visible tattoos or body art while on duty or wearing a department-approved uniform, says the Houston Chronicle. Officers can cover their artwork only with their official police uniform, special assignment uniform, or plain clothes. Officers with tattoos on their forearms must wear long sleeves year-round or have the artwork removed by a laser – an expensive and time-consuming procedure. Likewise, bicycle patrol officers with tattoos on their lower legs will have to wear long pants in the summer.
Police Chief Harold Hurtt imposed the rule to ensure that officers present a professional image when interacting with the public. The change is part of a new appearance and grooming policy, which also prohibits uniformed officers from having beards or goatees. That change was made to protect officers who have to wear breathing masks when responding to chemical or biological emergencies. Police union president Hans Marticiuc complained that, “Some of these people were hired with tattoos – and now you’re springing this stuff on them. Some people got tattoos as a result of the assignment they were given – gangs, narcotics.”