AFP's tattoo rules target 'bogans', staff emails claim

A new uniform policy at the AFP has caused outrage. Source: Facebook @AusFedPoice

Internal emails have revealed anger over a new police uniform policy stating tattoos must be covered up.

Outrage within Australia Federal Police ranks over a new uniform policy to cover up tattoos has been revealed in internal staff emails claiming it discriminates against “bogans”.

More than 100 pages of emails from July about the dress code introduced on 1 September have been released by the AFP under FOI laws, with many condemning the policy as regressive and hindering police work.

One email questions the priorities of “poisoned marshmallow overlord” managers.

The regulations are part of Home Affairs’ standardisation of its various agencies, including the Australian Border Force, under which employees will have to cover up tattoos while on duty.

Names of the staff members who wrote the emails have been censored but they cover two days of heated debate within the AFP in mid-July.  

“My cultural background is Aussie Bogan. Tatts are a part of it. My culture is as important as anyone else’s,” one email read.

“Time to change peeps. Tattoos are a part of our community, aren’t we???” another read.


Recent research suggests 19 per cent of Australians have tattoos, with the figure rising to one in every four for women.

Some emails complained about having to wear sleeves and gloves, particularly in Australia’s hotter environments, while others mentioned the importance of having tattoos in certain communities.

“It’s getting a little concerning how unimportant policing and investigations seem to be at the moment and how important dental hygiene and long sleeve uniforms are,” wrote one worker.

“I am no longer in GD’s (general duties), but work in NAGS (National Anti-Gang Squad), so once again my tattoos are one of the many tools I can use when I speak to bikies etc,” said another.


One staff member suggested managers should take a look at themselves.

“Insect overlords? Come on, the executives look more like the Michelin man in reality! We welcome our new poisoned marshmallow overlords,” an email read.

Others questioned if the policy really applies to all tattoos.

“I was just wondering if members have had their eyebrows cosmetically tattooed on are required to cover them whilst on shift? :)”

The Australian Federal Police Association (AFPA) and Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) both attacked the policy when it became public in August.

The FOI release also includes the response to the email debate by ACT chief police officer Justine Saunders, who wrote to staff on 20 July thanking officers for their feedback.

“All members wearing a uniform while on duty (including professional staff wearing items with the AFP logo on them, PSOs and sworn police members) are required to cover visible tattoos,” she said.

She told AFP personnel they can apply for exemptions to the changes on religious, cultural or medical reasons with the National Uniform Committee, which will prioritise “hot weather long sleeve solutions”.

In a statement provided to SBS News, the AFP’s media unit said “members have discretion in how they choose to cover visible tattoos, as long as it does not interfere with their ability to perform their role” and that “common sense will prevail in the application of this policy and exemptions considered on a case-by-case basis”.

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