Beards and tattoos: Here’s why the Norfolk PD changed its uniform policy

Officers at the Norfolk Police Department can now grow beards and show tattoos in uniform under this new policy change. (Southside Daily/Courtesy of the Norfolk Police Department)
Officers at the Norfolk Police Department are permitted to grow beards and show tattoos in uniform with this new policy change. (Southside Daily/Courtesy of the Norfolk Police Department)

NORFOLK — An update to the Norfolk Police Department’s uniform standards now allows officers to grow full beards and have visible tattoos while on duty.

The new policy is “indicative of the actions of a modern 21st Century law enforcement agency,” Police Chief Larry Boone said in a recent news release.

Boone said the move is about more than affording officers leeway in their individual appearance choice but also opens the field to a wider range of recruits.

“We will no longer allow these personal style choices to impede our hiring practices, which sometimes prevents the most qualified candidates from a career in public safety,” Boone said.

Once required to wear a sleeve over visible tattoos, law enforcement officers can now openly display body art under the updated policy so long as it isn’t “deemed extremist, indecent, sexist, or racist,” officials said.

Officers who choose to grow a beard are still required to maintain its length to less than one-quarter inch and keep it shaped and trimmed around the neckline.

Now, looking more like “everyday people,” officials said the agency’s standard change also positively impacts an officer’s position as a member of the community they serve.

“Our appearance in uniform may have changed, but our professionalism, performance, and expectation from the community have not,” Boone said. “The women and men of the Norfolk Police Department do amazing things daily, and our commitment to excellence will remain the same.”

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Lucretia Cunningham is a multimedia journalist at Southside Daily covering hyper-local stories in Virginia Beach and Norfolk. Her stories focus on public safety, tourism, and city government. She is a Virginia transplant and military spouse originally from Chicago. Lucretia also served on active duty from 2006 to 2016 and started her journalism career as a broadcaster in the Virginia Air National Guard. When she’s not covering stories on the Southside, she’s covering stories with her Air National Guard unit.