UK law enforcement risks losing potentially talented recruits due to its overly strict bans on tattoos, a key official within the Police Federation of England and Wales has warned.
Since 2012, the Met Police has enforced a ban on visible tattoos on their officer's hands or faces however this position should now been questioned, according to the federation's chief inspector Vicki Martin, who has called for holding a "sensible conversation" on the issue.
Speaking to BBC5 Live, and as reported by the BBC, Martin said: "There's a lot of women are now having very small tattoos on their neck, and if you've got a woman that's got a small heart tattooed behind her ear, it's something that you probably wouldn't even notice.
"So why are we just saying that we're not even going to look at your application, because that might be a very talented individual that we would want in the service."
She continued: "The issue we've got is a number of forces are interpreting it differently and some are becoming very strict and I think it's actually becoming a bar to some really good people joining the service."
Martin pointed towards a number of "role models" that have tattoos and said that "people sometimes have tattoos and don't think about the consequences of them in the future."
She added: That's why it's time we actually ask the public what they think and make sure that we haven't got policies in place based on what we think the public think, rather than what they actually do think."
The federation is analysing the public attitudes of police officers having visible tattoos. The BBC reported the results are due this September. Currently, the Home Office rules on the subject are that candidates with visible tattoos will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
In a statement, the federation called for a "modern, consistent national approach" to tattoos to be adopted across the entire UK police service.
It said: "[The federation] believes that if the police service truly wants to embrace diversity and widen the talent pool it recruits from, then forces need to be more open-minded, so communities have a police service that reflects today's society."
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Met said: "Where officers or staff have tattoos that cannot be covered by everyday clothing (i.e. on the face, above a collar line and on the hands) it is a requirement that they register such tattoos as a formal written declaration to their line manager.
"We expect our officers and staff to maintain a high standard of personal appearance and dress that reflects the role being performed. This supports the reputation of the Metropolitan Police Service as a professional and globally respected policing service with Londoners, visitors to London and tourists."