Zach Ferguson is a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who wanted to become a police officer in Manchester, N.H. But he found out that the tattoos on his arms that read "U.S. Army" and "FREEDOM" would prevent him from being considered for employment with the Manchester Police Department.
Just 18 months ago, the department adopted a stricter tattoo policy. It says new officers can’t have any visible tattoos when they wear short-sleeves or shorts — period.
Frustrated that her husband’s pride in his military service now disqualifies him from wearing a blue uniform, Annie Kelly wrote a letter to the Union Leader newspaper a few months back — which was then transformed into an op-ed piece.
Among those who read the article was incoming Police Chief Nick Willard. “When I read it,” he says, “it instantly hit a chord with me.”
Indeed, the chief already suspected his department’s tattoo policy was making it tougher to recruit the very skill-set he values most — because so many veterans have them.
“Military service is the number one qualifier I look for in a potential police officer,” Chief Willard told WBZ-TV. “Even more so than a college degree.”
So Chief Willard reversed course, allowing applicants with visible tattoos to enter the police pipeline — subject to review of their body art to make sure it isn’t racist, gang-related, or otherwise offensive.