Warr Zone with Simon Warr

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THE Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Bernard Hogan-Howe, has stated that his officers should refrain forthwith from having visible tattoos inked onto their skin. It seems sensible judgement on his part and most people would automatically concur. However, as time passes, there is no getting away from the fact that there is a growing number of people, especially among the young, who in no way consider tattoos unsightly and incompatible with a professional job, but take the view they are simply “artwork”. These people believe that sporting a tattoo in no way impedes anyone from carrying out his or her professional responsibilities.

The cultural change is shifting quickly and there will soon be a majority of under-30s who have a tattoo (or tattoos). When I spoke to a group of teenagers recently, they put forward the opinion that, as long as what was inscribed was not offensive, they could see no reason why someone should not be allowed to carry one, regardless of his or her profession. There is certainly a generational gap with regards to this topic.

If a policeman or woman were to protect you from danger, or even save your life, the argument goes, could you care less if he or she was covered in tattoos? Furthermore, the police deal mainly with ne’er-do-wells, the majority of whom seem to like this “skin adornment”. Many believe that a tattooed police officer could use the fact to help break down the initial barrier between that officer and the criminal. What’s more, a burly policeman with an array of tattoos on show could use them to scare the feral idiots who roam our streets, causing mayhem wherever they go and who are seemingly afraid of nothing. A tattooed officer would certainly look intimidating.

No longer are tattoos associated wholly with the criminal class. Many ex-servicemen, a profession in which tattoos have been part of the culture for decades, return to civvy street and put on a police uniform. It would be a shame if they were not permitted to do so because of their visible tattoos.

All this aside, in my opinion visible tattoos can send out a poor impression and emit a message of acute individuality, suggesting a poor team player, which is incompatible with wearing a uniform. I think police officers should have a certain bearing, reflecting a certain standard. A tattoo will not affect a police officer in his ability to carry out his day to day business per se but, as they say, standards are standards.

This debate will continue and we of the older generations will have to get used to the fact that what we consider to be unsightly and aligned to coarseness is viewed differently by younger members of society.

Nevertheless, the day teachers are allowed into school sporting a visible tattoo will be the day I hang up my mortar board and gown.

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