Appearance directive - no grillz E-mail
Written by Mark Nichols   

A recent decision by the Broward Sheriff's Office to ban visible tattoos and non-traditional jewelry on deputies has renewed an age-old debate. Just what does "professional," look like? Employees at the 5,000-strong agency learned recently that the department will soon begin enforcing the new policy. Among other restrictions and guidelines, the appearance directive includes a ban on ornamental dental work, like gold caps and platinum  "grills."

 

But according to a story in the Miami Herald, Broward Sheriff's officials say tattoos, unlike grills, would be judged on a case-by-case basis to determine if they're offensive or "unreasonably intimidating." `"People are watching,'' Sgt. Tony Marciano, a jail sergeant and an officer with Department's chapter of the Federation of Public Employees union, told the Miami Herald.

"They want to know if they're called out and told to remove certain dental work, is the Sheriff's Office going to compensate them for that.'' But Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti said any uproar over the new policy is much ado about nothing. He says the new rules are necessary to prevent excessive visible tattoos of a questionable nature.

He also says it's an officer-safety issue. The ban on jewelry is related to the fact that the necklace or bracelet could potentially be yanked out by uncooperative suspects. "In fact, we are following the U.S. military model - a change implemented within the last year or so,'' Lamberti said.

``We are following a nationwide trend. We aren't starting this. Every major sheriff's office in Florida has already put this policy in place, including Miami-Dade Corrections, Jacksonville, Orange County in Orlando, Palm Beach County.''

"I have gotten comments from the public that some of these tattoos are offensive and intimidating,'' Lamberti said. In the end it's really just about looking the part. Denis Shaw, another retired Miami-Dade Police officer, said he believes bans on visible body art for cops are good policy and that anyone who disagrees should view the issue from a civilian's perspective.

``People want a neutral authority figure when they call an officer to the scene,'' Shaw told the herald's James H. Burnett III. Shaw pointed to the 1992 case of Boynton Beach Police Officer David Demarest, who was fired after his supervisors learned he had a swastika tattooed on his leg. Demarest was later reinstated.

The PBA  defended him, claiming that there was no indication Demarest "was racist while on duty."


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