By Amanda Keenan
FRONT line police officers are to launch a legal challenge against a new strict policy ordering them to cover up tattoos while on duty.
Under a new rule brought in by Lothian and Borders Police, officers have been told they must cover all body art.
Police chiefs claim they had to act after seeing a rise in the number of new recruits with tattooing, including completely covered forearms.
But now a group of officers are hoping to use the Human Rights Act to oppose the policy in court.
The move follows the implementation of a new policy which means officers must “cover any tattoos that are currently obscured by the standard dress code”.
The crackdown would see some uniformed officers forced to wear long-sleeved shirts, even in the summer months.
Until now, the force only took action against tattoos which were racist, offensive or sectarian, but police bosses said and increase in new recruits with “very extensive tattooing, including completely covered forearms” had prompted the decision.
Jackie Muller, secretary of the Lothian and Borders branch of the Scottish Police Federation, has opposed the move.
She said: “We have been in consultations with the force over the new policy.
“We feel that it is pretty Draconian to make people cover up their tattoos unless they are offensive.”
The federation said it had not yet received and approach from officers seeking help in the proposed legal action.
One officer involved, who did not wish to be named, told a local paper: “We’ve been told that any new officers with tattoos will have to cover them up. Senior officers are currently collecting a list of those with tattoos.
“We’ll have to wear long sleeve shirts, even in the summer. With our new body armour, it can be very hot with just short sleeves. Surely the police should reflect the community they serve.
“Tattoos are very popular nowadays – it’s a normal sight in all walks of life.”
Police chiefs said that tattoos on the neck and face had “always been unacceptable unless for cultural or religious beliefs.”
Hand tattoos, those with cultural or religious markings will continue to be allowed to display them, while the force is currently reviewing options for how to cover up such body art for other officers.
A police spokesman said the force would not comment on the proposed legal action, but added: “We strive to deliver the highest possible standards in all aspects of policing, including the personal presentation of our officers and staff.
“We have had to review our policy on tattoos following the increase in applicants who have had very extensive tattooing, including completely covered forearms.
“The policy has been introduced after consultation with the unions and police staff associations.”