NOPD relaxes policy on small tattoos, sends bigger message

© Fraternal Order of Police
© Fraternal Order of Police

The NOPD relaxed its controversial tattoo policy for officers. Now, the Fraternal Order of Police hopes the compromise boosts morale for officers and sends a message to recruits.

"The Fraternal Order of Police is there to protect the interest of their members, and they're my members too," said NOPD Chief Ronal Serpas on Thursday.

"This is just the beginning. Hopefully we will begin to show a history of this type of cooperation and communication," said Fraternal Order of Police Attorney Donovan Livaccari.

Both the labor organization and Serpas want NOPD officers to recognize the change in the tattoo policy as a representation of continued dedication to compromise.

"When we can find common ground on what's important to the officers and what's important to the leadership, I always want to find that," said Serpas. "And when I can, I'll act upon it."

Livaccari said that message should do more to retain officers and attract recruits, even more so, perhaps, than the outcome of this week's compromise.

However, he said, the deal was brought up in regular meetings between the leadership for months.

"The issue of the tattoo policy seemed to come up over and over and over again," said Livaccari.

Serpas said, "what I noticed as I've been walking around the department over the past couple of months paying attention to this is that there are a lot of officers that may have one single tattoo on a forearm. It didn't make any sense either so we said let's compromise on this piece."

Now, certain tattoos won't need to be covered up. As long as the image isn't offensive, anything on arms that is 2.5 by 4.5 inches or smaller will now be allowed. It's a small compromise that, Livacarri said, could give some officers a big morale boost at a time in the department when it's desperately needed.

"Summers are hot in New Orleans, and when you put on a bulletproof vest, it just makes it 10 times worse. To then tell people you have to wear long-sleeve shirts or sleeves or whatever they had to do to cover up, it just makes matters worse," said Livaccari.

The compromise stops as one just for small tattoos though, Serpas says, in the name of professionalism.

"Body art is each individual's choice, but when your entire arm is covered with it or your neck and such, we and the military and other police agencies would rather have a professional appearance," said Serpas.