Arundel police rescind tattoo policy

June 28, 2008|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,Sun reporter

Long sleeves are out for Anne Arundel County police officers, who have received word that a policy forcing officers to cover tattoos, body art and branding has been rescinded.

A federal arbitrator has ruled against the Police Department's policy requiring officers to cover body art. The policy was instituted last year by Col. James E. Teare Sr., the Anne Arundel County police chief, who said it was designed to promote professionalism and uniformity of appearance. The decision is binding.

"The public can rest assured that our officers will be the same professionals that they have always been, and they can expect the same protection and service that they have always had," Teare said in a statement released this week to department officials.

The Fraternal Order of Police had filed grievances over the policy with the department, arguing that the policy was unfair and could hamper recruitment. The FOP also said that having to wear long sleeves during hot weather was not only uncomfortable but amounted to a "Scarlet Letter" for some officers. The policy was instituted without notice, the FOP said, and the union did not have time to negotiate over it.

After months of negotiations - achieving only one concession, that spared officers in long-sleeved uniforms from wearing ties - union officials went to a federal arbitrator in January.

"Everybody was kind of standing behind our tattooed brethren," said union President O'Brien Atkinson.

"We are thrilled that the police officers and the duty to bargain prevailed."

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