Out-of-shape police officers more objectionable than tattooed ones, KHP survey finds

This file photo from 2008 shows a Kansas Highway Patrol trooper approaching a vehicle after a traffic stop on Kansas Highway 10.

Being out of shape distracts more from a law enforcement officer’s professional appearance than having a tattoo, a survey by the Kansas Highway Patrol found.

The highway patrol, facing a shortage of troopers, conducted the survey to determine whether to change its policy that prohibits troopers from having tattoos.

The patrol surveyed 21,525 people of whom about 85 percent had at least taken some college or were college graduates.

Of the respondents, only 28 percent agreed the highway patrol should have a policy prohibiting visible tattoos, 69 percent disagreed and 3 percent didn’t answer or have an opinion.

In addition, only 31 percent agreed the agency should allow only tattoos that are covered by the uniform, 64 percent disagreed and 5 percent did not answer or have an opinion.

In a news release, Lt. Adam Winters, the KHP’s public information officer, said the agency is still evaluating its tattoo policy, and it plans to compare the survey results with “scientific national surveys for comparative analysis.”

“The Patrol formed a committee to evaluate the tattoo policy months ago, and they will soon provide recommendations to the superintendent concerning whether the current policy should be altered,” Winters said in the news release.

On professional appearance, about 52 percent of respondents said that a lack of physical fitness “takes away from” the officer’s professional appearance while 4 percent said visible tattoos are a bigger detractor.

Twenty-two percent said both a lack of physical fitness and visible tattoos detract from an officer’s professional appearance, and 21 percent said neither lack of physical fitness nor visible tattoos detracted from an officer’s professional appearance.

Four percent did not answer or have an opinion on officers’ professional appearance.

But people hoping to work for the patrol should avoid risque or potentially offensive tattoos, according to the survey.

Seventy percent of respondents said officers should not be allowed to have visible tattoos that are offensive, while 21 percent said offensive tattoos are OK.

The survey can be found online at www.kansashighwaypatrol.org/DocumentCenter/View/449