Orange County Sheriff's Office mulling changes to tattoo policy



ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Channel 9 has learned the Orange County Sheriff's Office could soon loosen its policy on tattoos.

Right now, potential deputies can't have any visible ink that's larger than an index card, but some in the department think now is a good time to change the policy.

Rick Barnett has been tattooing clients for seven years, and he said he's seen a shift in attitudes about tattoos.

"It's changed dramatically," he said.

When Barnett started out, he said he never imagined he would one day tattoo doctors, lawyers or law enforcement officers.

In fact, a few days ago he even tattooed a grandmother.

"We had an 82-year-old woman come in and get a tattoo and she came with her granddaughter and they got butterflies," said Barnett.

It's estimated that 35 million people in the U.S. have at least one tattoo, and the OCSO is now considering changing its policy in order to hire more recruits.

"The tattoo policy that we've had since 2008, that's when it came into effect, was very restrictive," said Sheriff's Office spokesman Jeff Williamson.

Officials said the policy has caused them to miss out on qualified recruits.

"There are a number of candidates (and) that may have been their only hiccup," said Williamson.

The Sheriff's Office is thinking about changing the rule that says tattoos on the forearm and calf have to be smaller than a 3-by-5 index card. Anything larger than that and the candidate is automatically disqualified, officials said.

The new policy is still being worked out.

"It will be a more open policy and recruits that initially wouldn't have been able to get through the process now might be able to make it through," said Williamson.