Kansas Highway Patrol gauging climate on new trooper tattoos with public survey

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OLATHE, Kan. -- They've become as commonplace as jewelry.

Millions of Americans proudly sport tattoos on their bodies, and face difficult getting some jobs because of them. Now, the Kansas Highway Patrol is reconsidering its restriction against prospective troopers with ink.

It's a significant move for the patrol's future. A new survey that's being distributed asks the public for its opinion about police officers with tattoos, something that, as it stands, isn't allowed.

“We want anyone in the public to fill out this survey,” Trooper Candice Brashears said.

Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper Candice Brashears says her department's numbers have been down, to the tune of 100 troopers in the past decade.  Brashears says many of her colleagues have retired in recent years, and graduating classes from the state academy have been low.

“When we have a shortage in troopers, we're not able to respond to our calls as fast. That can affect our citizens,” Brashears said.

Current policy prohibits troopers with visible tattoos, or a design that could be considered as offensive anywhere on their body.

“We want to know (the public’s) opinions of tattoos as they relate to law enforcement. We want to know if they approve of tattoos or should they still be prohibited,” Brashears said.

Brashears says the Patrol has also decided to raise its starting salary for new troopers to $40,000 per year. That pay hike kicked in this month.

The possibility of allowing ink on officers sounds great to Rick Dunn, who operates Champion Tattoo Studio in Johnson County. He says he’s inked hundreds of people, including the occasional police officer.

“It's a personal means of telling a story,” Dunn said.

“If I were to encounter a member of law enforcement who was tattooed, it would probably remove some of that intimidation just for the sheer instance of human expression being seen in those who hold office."

Dr. Micah Kubic, the American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director in Kansas City, agrees with Dunn. He told FOX 4 News the ACLU believes law enforcement members should be permitted to have any tattoo they choose, saying it’s considered a protected form of free speech.

Trooper Brashears says the survey will be available to the public for the next three weeks. As of Friday, the KHP says 4,500 people have taken it, and submitted a wide range of opinions. You can take the survey by following this link to the Kansas Highway Patrol website.

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