Chicago police officers sue over tattoo cover-up rule

Three Chicago police officers filed a federal lawsuit against the department Thursday, challenging its new policy that requires uniformed officers to cover their tattoos.

The officers, all of whom served in the military and have tattoos on their arms, argue in the suit that the policy violates their First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and expression. The city of Chicago is named as the sole defendant.

According to the Police Department’s new policy, which went into effect June 12, tattoos and body brandings cannot be visible on officers “while on duty or representing the department, whether in uniform, conservative business attire, or casual dress.”

The hands, face, neck and other areas not covered by clothing must be covered with “matching skin tone adhesive bandage or tattoo cover-up tape,” according to the policy. Uniformed officers also are barred from wearing baseball caps, and knit caps in the winter, under the new policy.

One of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Officer Daniel Medici, a nine-year veteran of the department, bears a tattoo that honors his service in the Marine Corps. An Iraq War veteran, he has a “wings and halos” tattoo in remembrance of his fallen comrades, according to the suit.

The two other plaintiffs, Officers John Kukielka and Dennis Leet, each have a religious tattoo of St. Michael, the patron and protector of police, mariners, paratroopers and sickness, the suit says. Medici also bears a religious tattoo. Leet and Kukielka both served in the Air Force and were hired by the Police Department in 1999 and 2009, respectively.

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