Members of the police force can now have visible tattoos, provided they are not on members’ necks, faces or palms.

The new tattoo policy, which came into effect on Thursday, revises the rigid anti-tattoo stance that the Malta Police Force enforced for years. Politicians have been talking about revising the policy for a decade.

It allows police men and women to have visible tattoos, albeit with exceptions. Tattoos cannot be vulgar, political or discriminatory in nature. And the only face, neck or palm tattoos allowed are those required for medical reasons.

Previously, officers with tattoos had to ensure they were not visible to the public while on duty.

“Having a tattoo is no measure of a person’s qualities,” Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri said as he announced the change in policy. “A person should be judged on the basis of their work and professionalism.”

The new policy applies to existing members of the police force as well as new recruits and applicants to join the force.

Police unions have previously argued that rigid rules about things like tattoos and facial hair are contributing to the police force's recruitment problems. 

Malta’s police force faces an uphill struggle to attract new members. Despite a growing workload and ballooning national population, more police officers have retired in the past decade than have been recruited. 

Last month, Camilleri acknowledged that a significant number of officers had left the force through retirement after serving for 25 years, but said there was no issue with members of the police force quitting ahead of time.

The minister noted that it was increasingly challenging to attract new talent.

“Today, when young people leave school and start looking for a career, they have diverse options in prestigious industries to choose from. So I’m happy to still see them choose to join a disciplined force. We will continue to encourage them to do so and will continue to work to make it a more attractive career choice,” he said.

Data provided in parliament shows that 117 officers quit the force before being eligible for retirement in the past five years. This number however includes officers who died, were fired or transferred or forced to quit work for medical reasons.

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