Tattoo policy change for Orange County sheriff's deputies



ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - A new policy at the Orange County Sheriff's Office is forcing some deputies to cover up their tattoos.
In some counties, like Osceola, all deputies must cover their tattoos, regardless of the size or how long the deputies have been there, but in Orange County deputies can have visible tattoos on their legs or arms, as long as the tattoos aren't too large.
A policy change on tattoos at the Orange County Sheriff's Office is opening the door for more people to be hired, according to sheriff's officials.
"Recruits coming in had tattoos and we realized that's normal in society," said Capt. Angelo Nieves, with the Sheriff's Office.
At one time a lot of tattoos would disqualify applicants, but now they are allowed as long as the deputy covers up any tattoos on their arms or legs larger than a 3 inch by 5 inch card.
The Orange County Sheriff's Office Union has a beef with the sheriff about one change in the policy affecting veteran deputies who in 2008 were grandfathered in and allowed to continue to show their large tattoos on their arms.
They were allowed to have those larger tattoos visible because the deputies had the tattoos before any restrictions were placed on tattoos.
Now, the sheriff has thrown out the grandfather clause, meaning even the veteran deputies with large tattoos have to wear long sleeves.
Union members claim they were never notified of the coming change and filed a grievance against the sheriff.
Sheriff's officials said the union was notified in April and the it never objected to the change.
Covering the large tattoos is a way to protect the professional image of the department, and brings all deputies under the same policy, sheriff's officials said.
Union officials said they don't believe anyone will care if a few deputies have larger visible tattoos.
Union officials told Channel 9's Jeff Deal that it never had discussions about getting rid of the grandfather clause and may pursue arbitration on the issue.
Sheriff's officials said the change was in writing and union leaders should have been aware.