Provincial police still don’t have an official tattoo policy, two years after Commissioner Chris Lewis imposed a ban on ink when a senior member mistook a constable with tats on his forearms for a gang member.
“Really, we were pushing for it to be done,” said Ontario Provincial Police Association president Jim Christie.
“If somebody walks in with a Mike Tyson (tattooed) face, there’s nothing the OPP can do about it. And they don’t want that, and we don’t want that, so it’s really in the force’s interest to bring it to some sort of a resolution.”
The case of mistaken identity took place in early 2010.
The officer was told to cover up.
He filed a grievance, and an arbitrator knocked down the body art ban.
Since then, “there’s been no change. It’s status quo,” said an OPP spokesman.
Last fall, police brass –hesitant about tattoos on the forearms, face, and neck — surveyed its members, board and municipalities to draft a new policy.
“We never heard about the results of the survey,” said Christie.
So nothing has changed, “but nothing negative has happened, either.”
Christie has been keeping his eyes peeled.
He spotted many officers walking around in short sleeve shirts during a visit to Wasaga Beach earlier this month.
“Nobody was raising an eyebrow, and some of them had tattoos,” he said.
“And guess what? The world didn’t end this summer.”
Right now, Christie doesn’t think the lack of an official policy will be a major problem for members, “because it’s very difficult for the OPP to come back with something very prescriptive, given that we’ve had a year without a policy, and not a single issue,” he said.
“There have been no public complaints, no internal complaints, no bosses telling the guys to take their tattoos off. Nothing crazy has happened.”
Given the current provincial financial climate, “I’m sure there’s other fish to fry right now, so we’re not bringing it up because it’s really up to the force to come up with a policy and then we can decide whether we agree with it or not,” he said.
The union is currently dealing with a piercing grievance, filed by a female officer with an eyebrow ring.
“The issue there, obviously, is what’s acceptable, what’s professional, what’s normal,” said Christie.
“We look at it more from a safety perspective. If somebody’s got a hoop hanging from the ear or something, they could be dragged with and injured with, and obviously, that’s an issue for us.”
A resolution is in the works.