Understanding Police Tattoos

Understanding Police Tattoos
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1 Module 1
Recorded on: 2024-04-25
Unit 1 Presentation Materials: Understanding Police Tattoos
Unit 2 Transcript: Understanding Police Tattoos
Unit 3 Workbook: Understanding Police Tattoos
Unit 4 Recording: Understanding Police Tattoos

Recent LA Times articles put a spotlight on cases of alleged deputy gang tattoos within the ranks, particularly a group dubbed the “Executioners.” Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna ordered compliance from deputies following the inspector general’s request regarding the tattoos for specific personnel. This webinar explores the reasons for seeking these police tattoos, the issues it may pose for law enforcement personnel, the agencies and the profession, and proactive measures to take to mitigate these risks.

Leading the conversation is Al Cobos, the primary consultant and owner of Dychelon LLC, a human resources training provider. Al has a 33-year law enforcement experience with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD), specifically its Training Bureau’s Education-Based Discipline/Leadership Unit.

Specifics of the webinar include:

  • What police tattoos are, how long these have existed in police culture, how these are earned, and what the draw is for law enforcement professionals to seek them.
  • How police tattoos can turn into a public relations nightmare, the types of cases where issues with police tattoos may arise, and how they might influence jury perceptions and create significant legal payouts.
  • Police tattoo-related agency and management concerns which touch on topics of culture, belongingness vis-à-vis exclusion, long-term career prospects of tattooed personnel, and managing risks.
  • Leadership’s duty to open up conversations about police tattoo culture with staff as early as hiring and academy level and how it can impact their career trajectory as well as public perception of the agencies.
  • California’s implementation of the Police Decertification Act of 2021:
    • How it takes police tattoos into account as it may be perceived as endorsing or symbolizing support or discrimination against specific groups.
    • The decertification risk that comes with having police tattoos should they be interpreted as evidence of bias or association with discriminatory groups.
  • How concerns with police tattoos can exacerbate the existing staffing and retention issue where applicants are prevented from being hired, or officers are limited from opportunities due to these tattoos.
  • The need for open discussions to better navigate the police tattoo culture and its consequences for the individuals, the agency, and the profession.
  • Training officers and sergeants as key influencers in shaping police tattoo culture.
  • The pros and cons of police tattoos: How they serve as tangible symbols of achievement and inclusion but may carry negative implications for the broader group in cases of misconduct.
  • Approaches to managing the police tattoo culture – punitive which ensures immediate compliance or through engaged conversations that move people into the right direction.
  • The LA County Sheriff’s recent initiatives to eradicate ‘deputy gangs,’ that focus on punitive measures.
  • Understanding the foundational ‘why’ behind joining law enforcement to integrate conversations surrounding police tattoos and its impact on law enforcement ethics and leadership development.
  • How proactive and constructive discussions about police tattoos can drive cultural transformation within law enforcement institutions.

Points raised during the Q&A are about:

  • The process involved in obtaining police-sanctioned tattoos.
  • Which types of tattoos might be misinterpreted as law enforcement-based.
  • and the potential public relations risks associated with specific imagery or names.
  • Balancing standards for law enforcement on tattoos with the potential risks to agency reputation.
  • Guidelines and policies on police tattoos.



Other Webinars with this Presenter


Or click here to view and register for other upcoming Law Enforcement webinars and recordings on the JCH Platform.


Audience Comments

  • “The discussion of LE tattoos being PR nightmares and Risk management issues was informative.”
  • “The responses to the Q&A segment were more in line with what I was hoping to learn from the webinar itself.”
  • The Impact of Police Officers with tattoos could be perceived as endorsing or symbolizing support for discrimination against other groups. The need to build relationships between the Police and community is crucial so Police Officers should take this into account.


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