The Polk County Sheriff’s Office is the latest law enforcement agency in the Tampa Bay area to modify its policy on tattoos, and it comes as a way to open the door to more job candidates.
This year the department is recommending employees cover the markings by wearing a long-sleeve, Under Armor T-shirt, according to Donna Wood, public information officer for the sheriff.
She said the revised policy came from meetings between Sheriff Grady Judd and employees with tattoos.
“We didn’t want to discourage qualified individuals,” Wood said, especially some “exceptional military candidates.”
She also said that the sheriff’s office, which did not have a ban on tattoos, understands that there is an emotional attachment and stories behind some of the tattoos that might be memorials.
The problem was the department wants to present and maintain a uniform look in the community, and some of the markings were visible when employees wore the Class B uniform, which has a short-sleeved shirt. And that led some candidates to believe that they would not qualify for employment.
The modified policy will be applied across the board, Wood said, and include civilian, patrol, detention and administration positions.
The department is working through the guidance on where to get the shirts, she said.
That approach is in line with other local departments. The Tampa Police Department, Hillsborough and Pasco County sheriff’s offices also require employees to keep tattoos covered while employees are on duty.
Some agencies are more lenient, such as the Tarpon Springs Police Department, which instituted a policy in 2012 allowing tattoos that don’t cover more than a quarter of an exposed body part.
Law enforcement agencies in the Tampa Bay area have been revising their standards for tattoos in the past few years.
Applicants for Polk sheriff’s office positions can contact human resources for more information, at (800) 226-0344 or (863) 298-6440.