First Responders

Officers Support Norfolk Police Chief’s Decision to Allow Beards and Tattoos

November 15, 2019Joshua Skovlund
Photo courtesy of Norfolk Police Department.

Photo courtesy of Norfolk Police Department.

The Norfolk, Virginia Police Department has recently changed their policies to allow officers with tattoos and beards to serve in their ranks. Historically, these two physical attributes have been a barrier for applicants who were otherwise qualified for a career in law enforcement.

“I don’t think anyone who calls the police for help cares whether the responding officer has a beard or tattoo,” Norfolk Police Chief Larry Boone said in a press release about the policy change. “Our appearance in uniform may have changed, but our professionalism, performance, and expectation from the community have not.

Boone agreed to change the policy after input from his staff. In an interview with local, he said “I do know off the top of my head about 10 incidents where I have turned down people in the past for tattoos, and my staff was pushing me saying ‘chief, this is all they have,’ and me in my old school thinking so to speak, I missed out.” 

Photo courtesy of Norfolk Police Department.

Boone confirmed that there will still be standards though. According to the press release, beards must be well-groomed and kept relatively short, while the tattoos “deemed extremist, indecent, sexist, or racist” are prohibited, regardless of visibility. Additionally, Police officers currently employed by Norfolk Police Department are required to obtain approval prior to getting a new tattoo. These guidelines are similar to requirements other police departments around the country who allow tattoos and beards. The change is expected to be attractive to applicants of all ages. 

Not only does the policy change allow the department to cast a wider net when hiring new officers, but will allow officers to feel more comfortable while on duty and assist them in connecting with the people they serve and protect. A recent Pew Research Center study said approximately 38 percent of people ages 18 to 29 have at least one tattoo.

Many law enforcement officers around the country agree with the policy change. “I think it makes an officer more approachable,” said Kenneth Bombardieri, a Dupo, Illinois, police officer. “More like everyone else.” 

“Visible tattoos do not diminish our capability to do our jobs,” said Marc Ross, a San Bernardino County probation officer, “and in today’s climate, I feel tattoos are more acceptable.” 

Norfolk isn’t the first police department to soften their policies on beards and tattoos. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Columbus, Ohio have eased up on officer grooming standards as well. It seems more police departments are opening up to the idea that people with tattoos and beards are just as capable of being officers as those without. 

“Allow your officers the options,” Bombardieri said. “A beard and tattoos don’t make an officer. You’re either a good officer or a bad officer.”


Joshua Skovlund
Joshua Skovlund

Joshua Skovlund is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die. He has covered the 75th anniversary of D-Day in France, multinational military exercises in Germany, and civil unrest during the 2020 riots in Minneapolis. Born and raised in small-town South Dakota, he grew up playing football and soccer before serving as a forward observer in the US Army. After leaving the service, he worked as a personal trainer while earning his paramedic license. After five years as in paramedicine, he transitioned to a career in multimedia journalism. Joshua is married with two children. His creative outlets include Skovlund Photography and Concentrated Emotion.

More from Coffee or Die Magazine
father's day
Father’s Day Gift Guide: Don’t Disappoint Your Dad … Again

It’s less than two weeks until Father’s Day, and last-minute gifts for Dad are harder to come by tha...

space force
Air Force Picks Colorado For More Space Force Missions

The Air Force announced the permanent location for many more U.S. Space Force units Wednesday — and ...

Curtis LeMay
Curtis LeMay: The World War II General Who Firebombed Japan

Who exactly was Gen. Curtis LeMay? And how did he become the commander who razed more than 60 Japanese cities during World War II?

eric smith marine corps commandant nominee
Highly Decorated Marine Officer Nominated To Be Next Commandant

President Joe Biden has nominated a highly decorated Marine officer who has been involved in the transformation of the force to be the next Marine Corps commandant.

USS Arizona
Profile of a Ship: USS Arizona

When the USS Arizona sank, it took 1,177 crew members with it. Today it remains beneath the water as a memorial to all those who lost their lives at Pearl Harbor.

b1 bombers bosnia
US Bombers Fly Over Bosnia in Sign of Support Amid Continued Secessionist Threats

A pair of U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers flew low over Sarajevo and several other Bosnian cities...

SR-71 Blackbird
SR-71 Blackbird: The Spy Plane That Could Outrun Missiles

Lockheed Martin’s SR-71 Blackbird was a government secret for years. Now retired, a newer version plans to take its place.

  • About Us
  • Privacy Policy
  • Careers
Contact Us
  • Request a Correction
  • Write for Us
  • General Inquiries
© 2023 Coffee or Die Magazine. All Rights Reserved