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Wyoming Tribune Eagle/file

CHEYENNE – After seeking public comment and doing an internal review, the Cheyenne Police Department has adopted a new policy for officers who have tattoos.

Officers are now allowed to show non-offensive tattoos, body art and brands on their forearms, knees and calves while in uniform.

A draft policy provided to the Wyoming Tribune Eagle states that all visible tattoos can’t be offensive and must first be approved by the officer’s supervisor.

Police Chief Brian Kozak said the policy change comes, in part, from a desire to recruit a more diverse group of officers.

“No longer are we looking for people who grew up always wanting to be a police officer,” he said. “Someone might have tattoos; someone might want to express what’s important in their life – maybe their children, maybe their career in the military.

“What we really look for in a police officer is their character,” Kozak said. 

The proposed policy change came about two years ago through discussions among leadership in the department, the chief noted.

CPD then issued a department-wide survey to gauge whether people supported the policy change. About 75 percent did, Kozak said.

A public survey issued on Facebook in May found that 89 percent of the people who voted supported changing the policy.

The Cheyenne Police Department isn’t the first agency in the U.S. to relax traditional grooming standards to attract a more diverse pool of applicants.

Departments in several states – including Texas, Oregon, Louisiana and Florida – have all relaxed policies on body art in recent years. And in the New York City Police Department, some officers are allowed to wear turbans for religious reasons.

Still, some agencies have had issues and even been subjected to lawsuits over offensive tattoos. In Philadelphia, the department was considering tightening its policy after photos surfaced of an officer showing a Nazi symbol on his arm.

But Kozak said there are enough safeguards to keep those disputes from happening here in Cheyenne due to the approval process.

The draft policy states that officers must first check with their immediate supervisor. If that official finds any of the body art offensive, the officer can then request a meeting with the chief, who will make the final decision.

There are other restrictions as well. For example, officers will not be allowed to show tattoos or body art while appearing in business attire or for a court appearance.

Katie Kull is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s criminal justice reporter. She can be reached at kkull@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3122. Follow her on Twitter at @katiekull1.

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