Thursday, June 26, 2008

City of Los Angeles to Its Firefighters : Nobody Wants to See Your Tattoos!

All hail the Los Angeles Fire Department for exuding some class. It’s about time a large group or company cracks down on visible body art at the workplace. I find tattoos incredibly unflattering—both to a person’s image and to their body in general. Despite these permanent ink imprints being incredibly common nowadays amongst all types of people and in all types of workplaces, I still believe they should be reserved for bikers and dive-bar regulars. Sure, call me old-fashioned, ignorant, lame, whatever. I stand strongly by this matter, always have, always will.

If a person wants to get a tattoo, that is their choice. Who am I to tell a person what he or she can or cannot do? But I will say, however, that in my mind, a person is looked upon with much more dignity and respect if these tattoos are not visible. As of this week, the approximately 200 firefighters who are employed within the LAFD, are forced under a new policy to cover up their tattoos—whether they are responding to a call or making dinner or even sleeping in the station. The only time they can display them is when they are showering.

As expected, this new policy has caused quite a stir. And I’m not as naïve as I sound—I’m quite aware that I am probably amongst a very, very small percentage of people who is actually in favor of this new demand.
"It's really disheartening to have to cover up these things," San Pedro firefighter John O'Connor said. "I have always displayed them with such pride. That's the real killer."

Since the policy took effect May 1, firefighters complain they've had to wear sweat shirts, long sleeves, and even skin patches to hide their body art. That hasn’t been the biggest complaint, however. People affected by this policy feel it is bad enough to cover up in public, but to have to conceal their body art in the privacy of their own fire station is absolutely ludicrous.

"I don't mind wearing long sleeves when I'm out on a call, if there's a public perception issue," says Anthony Temple.

"My one big problem is the firehouse. I live there 24 hours a day, a minimum of 10 days a month. I feel like that's my house. It's where I live with my colleagues. They want us to maintain a professional appearance in public - OK. But in the fire station, when we're cleaning and working on equipment, too?"

LAFD Deputy Chief Emile Mack stands by his decision to sign the rule.

"They look at what our image is when we come into contact with the public. We have hair standards and uniform standards and those aren't about the fire station, but how we appear when we're providing service to the public."

The Fire Department is following the lead of the Los Angeles Police Department, which adopted a tattoo policy five years ago that requires officers to cover exposed tattoos.

According to the LAPD, while officers moaned and groaned when the policy was initially implemented, the rule is now accepted and there have been no officers disciplined for violating the agreement.

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