Pennsylvania State Police are updating their policy on tattoos. Effective immediately, enlisted officers and prospective cadets can now have tattoos on their biceps and forearms, as long as they wear the long-sleeved uniform shirt on duty.


“It is a sign of the times in the year 2020, that the young people that we are trying to attract have tattoos,” said Ryan Tarkowski, Communications Director for Pennsylvania State Police. “We are broadening the applicant pool to attract the best qualified candidates.”


Tarkowski said there was no shortage in attracting applicants or filling a cadet class. However, they were turning away otherwise qualified applicants because of tattoos between the forearm and biceps.


Tattoos have always been allowed to some degree. The previous policy was that no tattoos be visible while wearing the short sleeve summer uniform. That basically disqualified anyone with tattoos from the bicep down the arm.


“Tattoos above the neckline, on the face, or on the hands are still prohibited,” said Tarkowski. “You won’t see a trooper with facial tattoos or piercings.”


While on duty, officers are not permitted to wear any facial or other visible pierced body jewelry. Tarkowski noted the risk to a trooper wearing anything that could get tugged on or ripped out during a scuffle while on the job.


“We are mindful that words and symbols can mean different things to different people,” said Colonel Evanchick, commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police.


“Tattoos deemed detrimental to the mission and function of the Pennsylvania State Police remain prohibited.”


Tattoos depicting words, pictures, or symbols which can be interpreted to advocate, promote, or support racial, gender, or ethnic hatred or intolerance are not permitted. Also prohibited are tattoos that can be interpreted to advocate, promote, or support discrimination towards any race, national origin, gender, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation.


Prospective cadets with tattoos go through a screening committee prior to appointment to the academy as part of the hiring process.


“This policy change shows that the current administration command staff is willing to work with folks,” said Tarkowski. “The goal is to attract and retain that talent. Because there is competition out there for law enforcement candidates, and we want to be able to compete with other agencies, as well as outside law enforcement as well.”


Municipal police departments have varying policies on tattoos— some are allowed to be visible.


“I think, as an industry and as a profession, the attitudes toward tattoos and body modifications are loosening.” said Tarkowski.


Qualified candidates interested in a career with the Pennsylvania State Police are encouraged to apply. The deadline for the current testing cycle is May 15, 2020.