For those who work in law enforcement, tattoos related to this profession may serve as a sort of armor they can wear into the battle of their daily grinds. For ink addicts across professional and cultural lines, the permanence and display of strength embodied in a tattoo often holds deep meaning.
For law enforcement officers and agents, police tattoos may afford a sort of symbolic protection or represent a figurative badge of honor.
Police tattoos may also be inked as a way to commemorate the sacrifices made by fallen comrades, or perhaps to speak to the enduring pride the wearer takes in their association with the field.
Common police tattoos include badges, handcuffs, the scales of justice, and myriad artistic interpretations of the “thin blue line” known to symbolize the brotherhood between those who consider police work their calling.
The style choices are completely up to the client, as so many things can be done to develop this subject matter into a visually appealing scene. Likewise, placement on the body is also incredibly flexible. Because this is an overall theme and not one specific piece with specific parameters, the possibilities are endless.
Police tattoos work equally well as small, discreet tributes or as large back or chest pieces. Real dedication can be shown with an intricate set of full sleeves.
This tattoo is a great example of a black and gray, American traditional design commemorating the wearer’s time with the Hartford police department. The shading on this piece is well executed and the line work is bold and consistent. The use of negative space for highlights, along with areas of solid, saturated black allows the artist to create contrast and increase definition without the need for the vivid colors usually associated with American traditional tattoos. This simple tattoo will serve as a permanent reminder of the wearer’s respect for the law enforcement community and proudly display his time in service of the community.
This full-color police badge is another example of the way these symbols of service and authority can be commemorated with tattoos. The level of detail and excellent application in this tattoo put the artist’s meticulousness on full display, while the use of different colors layered over each other effectively captures the look and texture of this badge. The variation on the shading on either edge of the badge, as well as the white used on the raised lettering, accurately gives the impression of a light source casting shadows and creating highlights on polished metal.
Here is a full-color design that uses a more illustrative technique to create a meaningful tattoo. The level of color gradation in the blues of the shirt and pants are well-executed and create a realistic image of the folds and creases in the uniform. It also appears that the artist used the American flag pattern of stars and stripes to form angel wings behind the officer as he consoles a little boy holding a teddy bear. The small details that are included—the different parts of the belt, the different badges, patches, and the radio—all work to create a realistic memorial to the good work law enforcement officers do for the community.
This excellent black and gray piece uses excellent shading and a powerful quote to honor the important work law enforcement does. The quote comes from Greek historian Tacitus and has become the de-facto motto of Police Officers’ Memorial Day, an official holiday honoring fallen officers. This powerful phrase is combined with the statue of a lion, an animal long associated with truth and nobility, to create a deeply meaningful tattoo. The design is completed with the well-executed gray wash shading on the lion, accurately capturing the details in the hair and face and adding an additional layer of texture to this tattoo.
Here is a tattoo that uses black and gray shading to create a powerful memento to the legacy of law enforcement. The silhouette of the officer makes use of well-saturated black as well as negative space and white to create realistic highlights, while the shading perfectly captures the somber expression on the woman’s face. Besides the obvious skill involved in the application of this tattoo, the most notable feature is the excellent composition: the overlapping layers of the officer, patrol car, cross, and woman all work together to create a cohesive and interesting tattoo.
This interesting piece takes several design elements that have become increasingly popular in the law enforcement community and incorporates them into an interesting tattoo. The Spartan helmet, long a symbol of honor and loyalty, is combined with the “Thin Blue Line” which represents the role of police in maintaining order and the Punisher skull is a popular emblem in law enforcement circles. The black and gray shading on the skull, as well as the fine lining in the crest, work together to give this design a realistic look while maintaining some illustrative aspects. The small details, like the dings and dents in the helmet and highlights, complete this fierce tattoo.
Police Tattoo FAQ’s
Can police officers have tattoos?
There was a time not so long ago when tattoos were strongly associated with prison culture, and having ink labeled someone as an outlaw at best, and a career criminal at worst. There was little chance of seeing a police officer with a tattoo; however, things have changed in the last thirty years. Now tattoos are less a testament to a criminal record than they are a personal expression of passion and culture. Nowadays, in most departments in major cities, finding a police officer with a tattoo is almost guaranteed.
While tattoos have become far more mainstream—even in the world of law enforcement—there are still guidelines that most officers must follow. It is generally understood that tattoos on the face and neck are inappropriate and some departments may require officers with large arm pieces to wear long sleeves year-round. Vulgar and racist tattoos are also prohibited. Despite the professional limitations, there is a growing acceptance of ink among law enforcement and pieces dedicated to the sacrifice the men and women make in the line of duty are becoming more and more popular.