Police rethink rules on tattoos, fitness test and driving

Police Scotland is reviewing its regulations on officers with tattoos, its fitness test and driving requirements as it struggles to meet the SNP’s commitment to maintain 1,000 more officers than it inherited.

Picture: Robert Perry
Picture: Robert Perry

The force has also made its application form easier amid concerns potential future crimefighters were struggling to complete the old one – with only a tenth of applications returned – and is considering proactive recruitment of minorities.

A fear of being relocated has become one of the main concerns for applicants since the forces merged in 2013, Police Scotland head of resource management Peter Blair will tell the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) today.

There are “no indications that the Scottish Government’s pledge that Police Scotland maintain an establishment figure of 17,234 police officers will be removed”, Mr Blair will tell the SPA’s human resources and remuneration committee.

He warned improved marketing and recruitment reforms could cost the cash-strapped force – currently wrestling a £25 million budget shortfall – up to £400,000.

Mr Blair said: “The number of applications has been the singular most significant issue for the recruitment function over the last two and a half years.

“A number of potential barriers to application were identified that appeared to be contradictory to the need to maintain applications.

“These included the requirement for driving licences, the residential element of police training, fitness testing, the standard entrance test and the tattoo policy.

“To date, many of these elements of the process have been reconsidered and revised processes implemented. Work continues in this area to address the remaining elements.”


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Tattoos do not prohibit applicants from becoming police officers but tattoos on the face “are not acceptable other than for religious or medical reasons”, Police Scotland’s recruitment website states.

It also warns that tattoos - whether visible or otherwise - should not “undermine the dignity and authority of the office of constable, cause offence to members of the public 
or colleagues and/or invite provocation” or “indicate unacceptable attitudes towards any individual or section of the community.

They must not “indicate alignment with a particular group which could give offence to members of the public or colleagues” or “be considered inflammatory, rude, lewd, crude, racist, sexist, sectarian, homophobic, violent or intimidating”.

Mr Blair said the biggest loss of potential candidates in the recruitment system appears to have been the old application form which “may have been a bar to application”.