Tattoo? You? Banned on the beat it’s true...

LEP Columnist Barry Freeman
LEP Columnist Barry Freeman
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Fifteen squid (1986 prices) worth of Steve Tat2’s finest work is to be found somewhere about my person.

No need for further detail. Suffice to say, however, that fifteen quid was cheap for a tattoo even then (the alternatives to my chosen design being a set of wobbly theatrical masks or stick man holding banner bearing message of choice), and said etching is not so located as to damage any prospect of future employment with the Metropolitan Police Force.

Had I opted to have this budget body art etched across my forehead, by contrast, it is unlikely any such offer would be forthcoming.

Last week, it emerged, said cops have told all employees – from frontline officer to backroom bod – that any visible tattoos must now not only be registered with the force, they must also be concealed while at work.

The memo was blunt: ‘Visible tattoos damage the professional image of the Metropolitan Police Service.’

More than shoving elderly people to the floor who promptly die? A matter of opinion but, needless to say – in these times of permanently pending outrage – there has been outrage.

Many tattooed types are up in inky arms. Discrimination, they cry!

Many untattooed types, meanwhile, are equally impassioned in their
support for boys in blue (my favourite being an unnamed Milton Keynesian who commented at ‘I was upset and shocked to be served by a heavily tattooed man in
Marks & Spencer last week.’).

The rest of us, one suspects, inked and uninked alike, merely shrugged and thought something along the lines of: ‘Yeah, well, that figures...’

I mean, this isn’t a question of the rights or wrongs of visible tattoos, it is a question of popular perception.

And popular perception has it that your average person with, say, a tarantula carved onto their throat is at best a nitwit (for ever believing this would not one day return to haunt them) and at worst, in the eyes of a great many – often older – citizens, a
criminal. Or, worse still, a sailor. A jolly Jack tar hitting town for a rowdy old time before hornpiping back up the gangplank next stop Java.

Those assuming this worst are, of course, fools. But those kind enough to brand spider-neck a nitwit?

Er, count me – budget upper arm garnish and all – with them.

Unless you are David Beckham, Robbie Williams or are otherwise wealthy enough to never either seek or require any measure of societal approval you will suffer for your tattoos, and only rarely at the hands of those convinced they qualify you as either recidivist or rating.

It will mostly be those who, despite a broadly liberal outlook, prove unable to quiet a little voice at the back of their head (who knows, maybe while they are considering offering you a job). A voice whispering: ‘But he must be stupid... Why else would he have a bloody spider on his Adam’s apple?’