In an effort to make New Orleans police appear more professional, Superintendent Ronal Serpas is banning visible tattoos as of Aug. 1, in a decision that will affect more than 100 officers.
Under the new ban, officers will have to cover tattoos on their arms by wearing long sleeve shirts and tattoos that can’t be covered with clothing must be covered with makeup, The Times-Picayune reported.
The Police Association of New Orleans (PANO) claims the new ban could affect morale, but NOPD spokeswoman Remi Braden said there are similar restrictions in police departments in New York, Los Angeles, and Baltimore.
"The absence of visible tattoos gives a more professional appearance to law enforcement officers," Braden said.
According to PANO, the department, which loses about one officer every three days, is currently attempting to bolster retention and get new recruits. All hiring in the department is under a domicile rule, meaning all officers must live within Orleans Parish.
Vermont State Police Capt. David Notte told Fox 44 that they are considering changing their policy to allow tattoos because they are “losing a lot of good applicants, especially veterans returning back from Iraq and Afghanistan.”
"As we reach temperatures close to 100 degrees on some days, it just seems like cruel and unusual punishment, just because you are proud that you served in the U.S. Navy or you put the name of your child on your arm," Raymond Burkart III, attorney and spokesman for the Fraternal Order of Police, told The Times-Picayune.
State troopers, who do not have to hide their tattoos, are told that visible tattoos must be no larger than a 3-by-5 inch index card.
"With the department that has all the problems we're facing at this time -- especially morale problems -- tattoos in this day and age are pretty prevalent in law enforcement and society," said PANO attorney Eric Hessler. "It just seems that this is not the issue at this particular point."
The NOPD has a lot of changes on the agenda after receiving a 492-point federal consent decree.
Burkart said the NOPD should be more worried about officers doing a good job than outward appearance.
"Does the person calling 911 in an emergency situation really care whether a police officer's tattoo is visible? They just want a police response and a timely one," Burkart said. "Does it matter that an officer who catches an armed robber has a tattoo? You took a dangerous criminal off the street. We have to ask ourselves: Are we prioritizing our reforms?"