Philadelphia, PA – The Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) has implemented a tattoo policy for officers amid allegations that one member of the force was seen displaying an alleged “Nazi” tattoo on his arm during a Black Lives Matter march in 2016.
The tattoo later turned out to not actually be a Nazi tattoo, but the policy was implemented which would allow action to be taken against officers whose tattoos were misinterpreted.
PPD implemented the policy without negotiating with the police union, the Philadelphia Tribune reported.
The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Lodge No. 5’s final complaint about the issue was dismissed by the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (PLRB) earlier this month.
According to the board, PPD has “the managerial right to implement policies that promote the public’s confidence and ensure integrity in the government,” the Philadelphia Tribune reported.
“The City has an interest in its officers, as representatives of the City, having an appearance of providing fair, balanced and non-prejudicial law enforcement,” the PLRB continued. “Offensive tattoos undermine the public perception of the integrity and credibility of the officer and the City thereby losing the public’s trust.”
Under the new policy, officers are banned from having tattoos that may be interpreted as a way “to advocate, promote, and support hatred and/or violence towards any person or group of persons based on race, national origin, gender, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation.”
Tattoos that someone might deem to be “grossly indecent, lewd or sexual that shocks the moral sense because of their crude, vulgar, filthy or disgusting nature,” are also prohibited, the Philadelphia Tribune reported.
Officers are also not allowed to have tattoos of any kind on their necks, faces, scalps, or heads, with the exception of cosmetic tattoos, including eyeliner and eyebrows.
Any tattoos that might violate the new policy must be covered with cream or clothing.
The policy was created after then-Philadelphia Police Officer Ian Hans Lichterman’s forearm tattoo was spotted as he was working the #BlackResistanceMarch during the Democratic National Convention in 2016, the Philadelphia Tribune reported.
Many alleged that the tattoo resembled the Nazi Party’s partieadler emblem, the Philly Voice reported.
The emblem adopted by the party featured an eagle with its wings outstretched, grasping a swastika encircled by a wreath in its talons.
Officer Lichterman’s tattoo included the eagle but no swastika.
The officer’s tattoo also included the word “Fatherland” above the bird.
The eagle image has hundreds of years of history in Germany and Officer Lichterman’s tattoo comes from the eagle in the German-American police association logo.
The protester plastered the image on social media, and declared that PPD was “employing a police officer with a white-supremacist, Nazi tattoo,” the Philly Voice reported.
“The mere decision to get this tattoo, and choose his profession, casts disperses any faith in Officer Lichtermann's [sic] ability to do his job in a non-oppressive/racist manner,” the protester declared, according to the news outlet. “It's intimidating display, and its present notoriety on social media have permanently marred Officer Ian Hans Lichtermann's reputation and, for anyone knowledgeable of his history, made him a deadly embodiment of police-terror.”
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney jumped on board, denouncing the 16-year veteran-of-the-force and demanding for the creation of a tattoo policy.
“I am deeply offended by the tattoo and I think it is completely inappropriate for any law enforcement officer to have such a tattoo given its impact on those they are sworn to protect and serve,” Kenney said, according to the Philadelphia Tribune.
An internal affairs investigation concluded that Officer Lichterman’s tattoo did not violate any PPD policies.
“Since the investigation determined that the officer couldn’t be dismissed because PPD does not have a policy against tattoos, we will draft such a policy so this cannot happen again,” Kenney said, according to the Philadelphia Tribune.
The FOP first became aware of the impending policy in February of 2017, and asked to be able to negotiate the content.
PPD blew off the union’s request and implemented the policy the following month.
During the complaint process that ensued, the FOP noted that the tattoo policy was too “vague” and “overbroad,” the Philadelphia Tribune reported.
In its final decision, the PLRB determined that the policy sufficiently describes what types of tattoos are now prohibited.
Officer Lichterman left PPD in 2018, having served his department for 18 years.
He was subsequently hired as a captain with the U.S. Navy’s civilian police force, the Philly Voice reported.