New Haven, CT – A New Haven police officer is fighting to keep his job after his police department determined that the new tattoos he got on his face violated a grooming policy that required officers to “present a neat and clean appearance while on duty.”
New Have Police Officer Jason Bandy was scheduled to appear before the Board of Police Commissioners on Wednesday facing termination for his new face tattoos, the New Haven Register reported.
Officer Bandy told the New Haven Register that his body was mostly covered with tattoos when he was hired as a police officer in 2008.
He added more tattoos to his neck and his hands a few years later.
The New Haven Police Department (NHPD) has no rules prohibiting tattoos on its officers, the New Haven Register reported.
It wasn’t until Officer Bandy showed up with his latest tattoos that the body art became problematic for his officials.
The latest addition quoted Caesar’s “vini vidi vici” – Latin for I came, I saw, I conquered – and was tattooed on Officer Bandy’s face, along his hairline, along with a stylized “D” meant to represent his connections to Detroit, and police department officials determined that Officer Bandy had taken things too far.
Officer Bandy said the police department wanted him to have his facial tattoos lasered off, and they expected him to pay for it himself, according to the New Haven Register.
So he filed a complaint with the Connecticut Commission on Equality in October of 2018 alleging that he was the victim of gender discrimination.
Officer Bandy charged that female officers in his department regularly broke the grooming rules without consequence, the New Have Register reported.
Department policy dictated that officers not wear jewelry other than wedding bands and religious jewelry and said no piercings are allowed anywhere but the ears.
The policy also said excessive makeup and dying hair unusual colors was not permitted, the New Haven Register reported.
“Every day for the past 11 years of my career, I have seen females violate this policy daily,” Officer Bandy said in his complaint. “Females regularly wear excessive makeup, dye their hair red, blue, green. Nose piercings, nail polish, unapproved jewelry and even tattooed eyebrows and eyeliner, which is no different than any other type of tattoo.”
Officer Bandy said he thought he was being targeted by people who were opposed to tattoos.
“This is not about that. Your personal opinion is your personal opinion,” he told the New Haven Register.
After he filed the complaint with the Commission on Equal Opportunity, his police department’s administration offered him a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that said he would be “in compliance with Department grooming standards so long as he covers his tattoos while on duty with make-up/concealer which fully obscures the three newly obtained tattoos on his face.”
“The Department may refer Officer Bandy to the Board of Police Commissioners for potential termination for noncompliance, whether such is intentional or not (e.g. weather related),” the MOU read.
Officer Bandy said he had no problem covering up his tattoos with makeup but he felt he was being set up for noncompliance because the makeup could fail in the rain or under particularly sweaty conditions, the New Haven Register reported.
So the MOU was amended to account for that.
“Officer Bandy shall be subject to referral to the Board of Police Commissioners for potential termination of employment for noncompliance, unless the chief of police determines that extenuating circumstances excuse such noncompliance,” read the amended MOU two days later.
But the officer still wasn’t satisfied.
He said he did not feel he would be treated fairly by the administration if something happened, the New Haven Register reported.
The MOU said that decisions regarding Officer Bandy would not be considered precedent for the department and required that the officer withdraw his gender discrimination complaint with the Commission on Equal Opportunity.
But Officer Bandy said he had a legitimate right to file the complaint and refused to withdraw it, the New Haven Register reported.
Faced with no other option, New Haven Police Chief Anthony Campbell filed charges against Officer Bandy for violation of General Order 85 on uniforms, equipment, and grooming.
General Order 85 says “All employees (sworn and non-sworn) shall present a neat and clean appearance while on-duty,” the New Haven Register reported.
Chief Campbell also cited General Order 1.03 that says “Employees are expected to present themselves in a businesslike manner. To this extent, police officers are expected to be in the proper uniform and present a neat and professional appearance (except as otherwise authorized by the chief of police or his/her designee).”
In the letter ordering Officer Bandy to appear before the Board of Police Commissioners, the chief said the officer “has been offered reasonable accommodations but has refused to accept any of those accommodations.”
This is not the first time Officer Bandy has been on the chopping block in the New Haven PD.
He was fired in 2011 when he was just 23 years old, the New Haven Register reported.
Officer Bandy had been working as a police officer for less than a year when he called out sick instead of going to work on the midnight shift.
Instead of working, he met up with a friend at a bar and proceeded to become very inebriated.
Later that night, Officer Bandy was arrested and charged with breach of peace, disorderly conduct, and interfering with police, the New Haven Register reported.
The judge in his case sentenced Officer Bandy to “accelerated rehabilitation” and he was able to have the charges wiped from his record.
He was reinstated to the police department under an 18-month "last chance" agreement that would cost him his job with no recourse if he got in trouble again, according to the New Haven Register.
Officer Bandy said getting fired had made a big impact on his life.
“It is a big part of who I am. I have learned a lot about myself, about people, about this profession because of that. And that has helped me over my years,” he said. “It has helped me become more genuine, it has helped me become more humane and it has helped me basically respect and understand people more because I went through something. That has made me into a better police officer.”
Officer Bandy filed a lawsuit against then-New Haven Police Chief Dean Esserman and Assistant Chief Luiz Casanova in 2015 that alleged they had harassed and discriminated against him after the termination, resulting in emotional distress, the New Haven Register reported.
He said he felt like the department had unfairly targeted him and held him back from advancing up the ranks.