HPD’s new tattoo policy goes into effect July 1

It’s not uncommon to see Honolulu police officers with tattoos.  But that will all change on July 1.

That’s when all Honolulu police officers in uniform will be required to cover their tattoos.

It’s part of the department’s new policy that’s aimed at improving their professional image.

But there’s mixed reaction from the rank and file.

Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha says there are officers who are against the new tattoo policy, including ones who don’t even have tattoos.  But he feels this new policy is in the best interest of not only the officers, but also the public.

KHON2 asked: “How hard was it to make this decision?”
Kealoha replied: “Very difficult.  You look at 20 percent of our force have visible tattoos, the sleeve tattoos, and tattoos on the neck, but what we always wanted to do especially as Chief, we want to maintain that public trust and confidence.  So these are hard decisions.  They’re not popular decisions, but they’re right decisions.”

The Chief and HPD commanders wear long sleeve shirts.

Officers can get similar long sleeve uniforms to cover up the tattoos on their arms.

And if they have tattoos on their neck or hands, they’ll have to use make up to cover them up.

KHON2 asked: “Has the public complained about officers responding to calls with tattoos?”
Kealoha replied: “Not really.  We haven’t gotten any complaints that they don’t look professional or anything like that.  It’s just something we see, and also see a trend in other police departments nationwide.”

Every year, officers can get three new uniforms, 75 percent of which the department pays for, and the officer is responsible for paying the balance.

Long sleeve shirts cost $100 each.  Short sleeve shirts cost $87 each.

KHON2 asked: “You know, Hawaii is really hot.  Wearing a long sleeve uniform can be really hot.  Are you concerned about that at all?”
Kealoha replied: “Absolutely.  The comfort of the officers and things like that.  A lot of our patrol vehicles, our white cars, they’re air conditioned so that should help a little bit.”

The Chief pointed out that solo bike officers are already required to wear long sleeve shirts, and they’re also out in the sun sometimes.

If an officer is caught not following the new policy, he or she will face disciplinary action.

The Chief admits he himself has tatttoos.

“I’m not against tattoos.  You can have all the tattoos you want, all the piercings you want.  But when you work they cannot be visible,” Kealoha said.

He added, it’s all about building the public’s trust and confidence, and improving the officers professional image.

“All I know is, come July 1st, I better not see any visible tattoos,” Kealoha said.

But there is an exception.  The Chief says undercover and plain clothes officers are exempt from the new tattoo policy; it only applies to officers in uniform.

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