Medicine Hat police must hide tattoos, piercings

A new policy banning visible tattoos and piercings for police officers is creating a stir in Medicine Hat, Alta.

Alberta city brings in new policy

New tattoo rules for Medicine Hat police

10 years ago
Duration 2:03
The Medicine Hat police force is instating a new rule that bans visible tattoos, earnings and unnatural colorued hair.

A new policy banning visible tattoos and piercings for police officers is creating a stir in Medicine Hat, Alta.

Chief Andy McGrogan says he's pleased with the changes, which prohibit his officers from revealing any tattoos, piercings or wearing unnaturally coloured hair.

The changes are well researched thanks to a 2011 community survey that showed residents favoured appearance standards for police, McGrogan said.

"It’s not what I think, it’s what members of the community think," McGrogan told CBC News. "At the end of the day, our community has spoken and we just changed our policy to reflect that."

Staff 'not surprised'

McGrogan says the force already has a policy that requires members to cover tattoos, but this new rule ups the restrictions placed on officers.

The biggest change will be for women who wear earrings — any piercings around the face, including ears, have been determined to be unsafe.

The policy change stemmed from a tattooed officer requesting to display his tattoos.

Staff Sgt. Brent Secondiak said staff were not surprised by the new policy.

"I would say most of the members probably have a small one at one place or another. Very few have sleeves or exposed tattoos on their arms," Secondiak said. "We’re OK with it. We’re really here to serve the community."

In Ontario, the provincial police attempted to place restrictions on tattoos, but that decision was later overturned.

Medicine Hat tattoo shop owner Samantha Barron is against the ban on body art for uniformed police officers. (CBC)

Tattoo shop owner Samantha Barron said she can't believe the policy change.

"I think it's pathetic that the police officers with tattoos now have to hide who they are," she said. "And it makes them less a part of our community."

McGrogan said the policy will be revisited in the future as public opinion evolves.

"Now you see a full-sleeve tattoo and you hardly look twice — at least I don't." McGrogan said.  "I think the community's acceptance level may change and we'll have to gauge that at some point."

Medicine Hat is 295 kilometres southeast of Calgary.