Friday, October 30, 2015

Cops must look uniform, including covering up tattoos they may have

Perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise, but a federal court judge this week ruled that a police officer’s need to maintain a uniform appearance is more important than their desire to express themselves.

Which, in a lawsuit filed earlier this year by three Chicago patrol officers, would have meant easing up on uniform requirements telling them they have to cover up their tattoos – no matter how inconvenient that might be.

U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE Charles Kocoras was the official who threw their lawsuit out of court, ruling that the police department has a legitimate need to have a consistent appearance for its officers – even if the officers themselves feel their tattoos allow themselves to express their inner beings.

The Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times both reported Thursday that the officers in question have tattoos on their arms that refer to their military service. Which might not be the most off-beat image that one would expect to see on a cop.

Some people might even feel assured at the thought that someone who once wore the uniform of the United States Marines is now patrolling their block.

Then again, other people might feel all the more offended that a “jarhead” has the legal authority to determine probable cause to detain them for whatever imagined offense they may perceive.

YES, I COULD picture a cop’s tattoo offending someone enough to cause an outburst. When it comes to outbursts, there’s never any real sense of logic to them. Life has its share of stupidity.

Yet I can’t help but think that limiting a police officer’s tattoos in public isn’t the most outrageous thing that could happen. It’s not like a person’s ability to get hired as a police officer is limited by their tattoos.

Which, in the real world, isn’t the case. There are companies that would refuse to hire people who have tattoos that are totally garish and so publicly displayed that there’d be no way to use the flesh-colored (if you’re of a certain racial persuasion) tape that some people use to cover up their most public tattoos.

Tattoos can be a drawback in our society.

IT WOULD HAVE been a radical change for society if a judge had been permissive of a cop showing off his tattooed arms while on duty.

Now I realize this is a generational thing, and that there are those people just a little bit younger than I who are bewildered by the thought of people who have never got themselves tattooed. Even though I’m too willing to associate tattoos with prison inmates who use them to publicly mark their gang associations.

There are those people who have something on their back or perhaps on their ankle, some cute little design. I’m not about to start a rant about how tacky their designs are. It’s their own business.

But it isn’t something I have ever done, and honestly doubt I ever will. If you don’t believe me, I’d be willing to show you my hairy, un-tattooed behind. Which is something I doubt you really want to see.

SO I HAVE my own bias about tattoos – I don’t mind Judge Kocoras’ ruling, which said that permitting their public display “undermine(s) the Chicago Police Department’s ability to maintain the public trust and respect.”

I’m inclined to think that the legal fight over tattoos is something that was best put to rest.

But I do have to admit one part of the judge’s ruling that is questionable – it also supported the provisions that prevent police officers from wearing knit caps during the winter months.

Anybody who has ever experienced a Chicago winter knows that only an absolute fool goes out in the cold without some sort of covering for the head and ears. And only a knucklehead thinks cops would be better off wearing ear muffs during a snowy, cold day!


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