SAPD Tattoo Policy

SAPD Tattoo Ban

Does the Chief’s SAPD police tattoo ban help or hurt?

In 2014, Chief McManus banned San Antonio Police Officers from having visible tattoos. Officers with arm tattoos were allowed to wear sleeves to cover them, but hand or neck tattoos that could not be covered, had to be removed at the officer’s expense.

At the time it went into effect, the tattoo ban affected nearly 12% of the police force and impacted recruitment. While the Chief’s visible tattoo ban policy was similar to tattoo bans in Dallas and Houston, it differed greatly from Austin’s policy, which allows visible tattoos as long as they’re not offensive. Since the Chief’s ban went into effect there have been some complaints from officers with tattoos, while other officers are ok with the ban.

Many cities around the country have tattoo policies similar to Austin’s because they recognize that tattoos are more common nowadays among young people, the key target demographic for department recruiting, and with military veterans trying to enter a career in law enforcement.  In July of this year, the Chief revised his 2014 ban, allowing officers with visible tattoos on their arms to wear short sleeves, but this only applies to four months of the year.

With SAPD already facing recruitment challenges, high retirements, and high attrition rates among cadets at the academy, the San Antonio Police Officers Association wants to know:

  • Does the Chief’s policy help or hurt recruitment?
  • Is it in line with the times and with other departments around the country?
  • Does the policy send a message of inclusion and acceptance?



  1. Mrs.T Reply

    Yes i agree with the ban. Appearances matter especially if your representing san antonio in a professional way. When i see a cop with tattoo i don’t take him or her serious. Because if the cops allow anybody to draw on there body, that means they don’t value/ respect their body. A tattoo on a police looks unprofessional.

  2. Eddie Torres Reply

    The policy definetly hurts recruitment
    It is not in line with the times and there is no need to be inline with other departments on this policy, Thiago is there own decision to make.
    It is not accepting or including to cover up anyone’s skin, that would be the same as saying there skin color is not acceptable.

  3. Sylvia Garcia Reply

    I disagree with the ban. A tattoo does not keep a person from doing their job as long as the tattoo is not offensive. Many of the recruitments are coming from the military and if they can defend my country with tattoos then they can definitely defend my city.

  4. Douglas Shomette Reply

    As a former SAPD officer I agree with the policy. An Officer is intiteled to respect and must have it to protect the public AND HIMSELF. His/her appearance is important just like the uniform. It is important that an Officer sets an example to all.

  5. Michael Guzman Reply

    I think the ability to spell correctly is more indicative of professionalism than whether or not an officer has visible tattoos. The word is “entitled” not intiteled.
    When I first sleeved out my arms, I wore long sleeves to cover them. It was both to protect the tattoos as well as to not draw attention to myself. I understood the stigma that went along with having full sleeve tattoos and being in uniform.
    It is now 2018. Tattoos are not only more accepted by the general public, but by other professionals as well. It is not uncommon for doctors, lawyers, teachers, and business men to have tattoos that you would probably only see bikers displaying 10 years ago. With that, wearing long sleeves is very uncomfortable in the heat. As a supervisor, I can limit the amount of time I’m outside when it is hot. Our patrol men and women do not have that luxury. So, I just say, ask yourself this question. How does it effect you, the taxpayer. Do YOU suffer any consequence from officers displaying their tattoos? Outside of reading this, is it something that effects you on a daily basis? If not, then why does it matter. I say allow our officers to be comfortable. I believe being uncomfortable has a more negative impact on an officers job than having their tattoos visible. That’s my opinion. I’m fine either way. I made my choices in life and I accept this as a consequence, but I am SICK of the implication that somehow tattooed officers are unprofessional.

  6. Dan Martinez Reply

    Respecting one’s body is important in having self respect, and for others as well. To brand oneself with a Tattoo is like sending a message to others, as to what your concepts and beliefs might be. The tattoo images that you display, that might relate to how tough you are, or family, religion, or the military unit and groups you belong too. Whatever the case might be, you will be identified by what you display.
    I made a mistake of self tattooing when I was sixteen, years later I realized I didn’t want to look like a gang member or some sort of low life, so I had them removed at the age of 25. Tattooing is a chose and a right that rests with each of us. Employers also have a right to have policies relating to their employees. Parents with children certainly would not want them to be tattooed, but once they are of age they have choices to make for themselves. Drug use in teens, will also be a factor in their ability to be employed by Law Enforcement. In the final analysis it’s one’s choice, right or wrong. We all have to live by the choices we make.

  7. Angela M Reply

    I agree with the ban on tattoos. It is very inappropriate for anyone with authority to enforce laws to have tattoos that are visable. Lifting the ban diminishes the professionalism expected in law enforcement.

  8. Greg Brooks Reply

    As a retired San Antonio Police Officer, I disagree with the policy because it discriminates against veterans. Many veterans become police officers due to the job being closely related to the military. I feel if the tattoo’s are not appropriate then they should be covered but if they are not it is no problem. I know that the chief now allows it four months out of the year but nobody wants to wear a long sleeve shirt 8 months out of the year and the ugly sleeve that guys are allowed to wear look worse than the tattoo’s themselves. They are not unprofessional and I’m not really sure who made that determination.

  9. Chris Sawyer Reply

    I disagree with the tattoo ban. A tattoo does NOT make a officer unprofessional. I wear an arm cover and get asked by citizens why and when I tell them about the ban I have yet to have anyone agree with the ban. In fact I have received only complements on the tattoo. I have questioned many supervisors and have yet to find one that has fielded a complaint about officers with tattoos. I have been on for over 20 years and officers have had visable tattoos prior and since I have been on the department. Like what was already mentioned above professional individuals in every job out in society have tattoos. The individuals actions make the individual professional or unprofessional and makes people take that individual seriously or unseriously, not what is or is not on their body.

  10. Leroy Medlin Reply

    There is a appearance standard that all public servants must adhere to especially officers who have that authority to deprive a human of their liberty. It’s unsightly and give the impression of individualism. A uniformed officer should be held to a higher standard and willing to look sharp. Tattoos were, are and will always be in line with paganism hence the reason they are most commonly associated with the criminal element. Keep the ban and enforce it!! This is just another way to lower the standards for recruitment purposes. Only God knows what we will start letting in next… Off-duty marihuana usage?? All this is disgraceful but i’ll admit, it’s in with the times.

  11. Jacqueline Torres-Benavides Reply

    I feel as a criminology major student, that this ban needs to be lifted. Yes this was recognized a bunch of times that tattoos are “unprofessional” but come on SA. This is the 21st century 2018, tattoos are way more common now then they were back then. Alot of people have them now, including professionals who work in different fields. I myself have tattoos, that are visible on my arm, which are not offensive by the way, but if this ban is not lifted, then I’m going to have to find another major to study in. How am I going to apply for the academy if I have tattoos? Hopefully there is a change of heart.

  12. Regan M Murphy Reply

    I think neck tattoos look extremely unprofessional. Someone mentioned doctors, lawyers or teachers having tattoos. I would not use a doctor or a lawyer that had neck or face tattoos.

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