As hundreds of people gathered outside the banquet room at the Westin Crown Center hotel before the start of the NAACP Freedom Fund Luncheon, some Kansas City police officers dressed in a back room before marching in the U.S. flag at the start of the program.
At least one officers’ many tattoos stood out before the men put on their dress shirts, ties and uniform jackets to present the colors for the Kansas City branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s annual event. It was on Oct. 31, Halloween, but there was nothing scary or off-putting about the young man’s body art.
That’s how the Kansas Highway Patrol should view young people who are trying to join the force as potential troopers. To its credit, the patrol is re-examining its policy, which disqualifies candidates from applying if they have any offensive tattoos, scarification or brand anywhere on the body.
The patrol also disqualifies candidates with markings that are visible while wearing a uniform or the needed work clothing such as short-sleeve or V-neck shirts. They are excluding people who could be excellent law enforcement officers if they were given an equal shot at those jobs.
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What the patrol also has to understand is that a lot of young people are massively into tattoos. The more elaborate the tattoo art, the more young people admire their body ink.
The Kansas Highway Patrol needs to use that just as Kansas City and other police departments do. It would help the patrol better fill its ranks with new recruits. In addition, getting past the tattoo prohibition would enable the patrol build up the credibility of the troopers in the community they serve.
Older people may frown or whence over the markings on young people’s body. Some even call tattoos “a permanent reminder of a temporary feeling,” and yes, all of it fades and sags with age.
But it’s not the thing for older generations. Millennials, however, see tats as cool. Millennials generally are the offspring of baby boomers.
They are people ages 19 to 35 this year who number about 75.3 million, or 23.4 percent of the U.S. population of 320 million million people. Millennials are a larger segment of America now than the 74.9 million baby boomers, ages 52 to 70.
Millennials are a big part of this country. Businesses and advertisers are paying attention to them because they are at an age where they are considered major consumers. Law enforcement agencies need to take them seriously, too, and include them in their ranks to attract the community and make their operation more appealing.
Here’s why. The Pew Research Center in a February 2010 study explained that millennials’ tattoos are a form of self-expression. They don’t just go for one form.
They do it in multiple ways, and that includes social media.
“Three-quarters have created a profile on a social networking site,” the Pew study notes. “One-in-five have posted a video of themselves online.”
The study in our rapidly changing social media influenced world is six years old so the numbers are likely a lot higher.
“Nearly four-in-ten have a tattoo (and for most who do, one is not enough: about half of those with tattoos have two to five and 18 percent have six or more),” the study noted. “Nearly one-in-four have a piercing in some place other than an earlobe — about six times the share of older adults who’ve done this.
“But their look-at-me tendencies are not without limits. Most millennials have placed privacy boundaries on their social media profiles. And 70 percent say their tattoos are hidden beneath clothing.”
Hidden or not, we will see a lot more of them on young adults, and no one should be turned off by what young people view as cool.