This is the debate currently being voiced between the Ministry of the Interior and the Guardia Civil themselves. The intention was announced a few months ago by the government to regulate more closely the appearance of the Guardia Civil officers, including their tattoos.
Currently the rules state that tattoos are acceptable but must not contravene constitutional values. They must not express discriminatory views or images and should not reflect a specific political opinion. However, a few months ago it was proposed that tattoos shouldn’t be allowed at all.
Since then a new draft decree amends this original prohibitive proposal and would allow those who are already Guardia Civil officers to retain their tattoos and would not require them to cover them up. However, the application of the new ruling would also be down to the head of the individual unit and this could cause internal difficulties within the force.
Traditionally, the prohibition of tattoos only applied to those joining the police force. Once they were accepted, trained and on duty then they were allowed to have them done. In some cases it could be that the head of the unit would require the officers to cover them up but now many officers on the beat are in opposition to the idea that this is no longer down to individual judgement but would be a ruling.
It is also quite difficult to cover up some tattoos, depending on their location. Those on the neck or hands are particularly difficult to disguise by using makeup and the use of bandages to cover them would look worse than the tattoos themselves.
The new draft is also causing concern because of the suggestion that those officers who already have a tattoo should have them photographed and registered in order to check that they do not have any more. However, many officers feel that this is an unacceptable intrusion and treats them like cattle. It is planned that officers would have three months in which to declare their tattoo and that following this, if they have another one then they could be investigated and charged.
It is not only tattoos that are included in the draft regulations. There are plans to include regulations about hair styles, beards and moustaches. For many members of the Guardia civil it isn’t their appearance that should be in the spotlight but the shortage of police officers and the difficulties with recruitment.