Chicago police officers salute during a 2014 graduation ceremony at Navy Pier. In a 1976 case, the Supreme Court held that law enforcement agencies could enforce a grooming standard. "Similarity in appearance of police officers is desirable," the court’s opinion said. (Antonio Perez, Chicago Tribune) A federal judge this week threw out a lawsuit filed over the summer by three Chicago police officers who challenged the Police Department’s new policy requiring officers to cover up their tattoos.
U.S. District Judge Charles P. Kocoras ruled Tuesday that the city’s goal to have a professional-looking department with uniform restrictions outweighs the officers’ interests in expressing themselves by keeping their tattoos visible while on-duty, according to court papers.
When they filed the suit against the city in July, Officers Daniel Medici, John Kukielka and Dennis Leet argued that the department’s policy violated their First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and expression. The officers all served in the military and have tattoos on their arms.
Kocoras argued that the trust officers are trying to establish with the community might be compromised by allowing them to show off the tattoos.
“Due to a tattoo’s unique character, if this Court allowed on-duty police officers to display their tattoos, we would undermine the CPD’s ability to maintain the public’s trust and respect, which would negatively impact the CPD’s ability to ensure safety and order,” Kocoras wrote in his opinion.
According to the department’s policy, tattoos and body brandings cannot be visible on officers "while on duty or representing the department, whether in uniform, conservative business attire, or casual dress."
The hands, face, neck and other areas not covered by clothing must be covered with "matching skin tone adhesive bandage or tattoo cover-up tape," according to the policy. Uniformed officers also are barred from wearing baseball caps, and knit caps in the winter, under the new policy.
An Iraq War veteran who served in the Marine Corps, Medici bears a tattoo that has a "wings and halos" in […]