Ontario Provincial Police commissioner Chris Lewis knows he’s been deemed somewhat of a, well, prick, following the force’s tattoo ban in 2010.
“Unfortunately, this whole thing came off like I was anti-tattoo — that was never the issue,” said Lewis.
“The original intent was, if you’ve got sleeve tattoos, wear long sleeves in the summer. And don’t get them on your face and neck.”
Now, OPP brass are surveying its members, board, and municipalities to create a policy addressing ink in contentious regions: The face, neck, and forearms.
For almost four months, cops have been free to show off their body art, after an arbitrator nixed the OPP’s cover-up policy that had been implemented in early 2010 when a senior member of the force mistook a constable — with tattoos on his arms — for a gang member.
“They ordered the guy to cover up. There was no policy at the time,” said Ontario Provincial Police Association president Jim Christie.
The officer filed a grievance in July 2010.
In response, the force banned all tattoos “which is somewhat oppressive, we figured,” said Christie.
And even officers with Canadian flags were told to conceal their art.
“Nobody’s walking around with swastikas on their foreheads here,” said Christie. “People have the names of their children, and you know, they have commemorative stuff, some military stuff. So nothing crazy at all.”
Lewis says he was just following legal advice and isn’t trying to thwart his members’ freedom of expression.
“It’s just trying to find a happy medium as to what’s acceptable in the public for a police officer in uniform, carrying a gun,” said Lewis.
The issue now: There’s no policy at all.
Hypothetically, a cop could get his or her whole face tattooed.
“So if you’ve got a picture of your mom on one cheek and a picture of your dog on the other, that’s really nice, but is that acceptable when you’re walking up to a car and saying, ‘can I see your driver’s license, please?’,” said Lewis.
Christie says both sides are working to firm up what is and isn’t acceptable.
“The OPP has never received a public complaint in relation to tattoos,” he said. “It’s the force’s policy. We just need to make sure that we’re in agreeance with it.”
The survey is expected to be completed in early 2012.