The Trinidad and Tobago Police Service’s tattoo policy is an archaic, artificial administrative barrier which occasions significant prejudice.
That’s the way High Court judge Frank Seepersad described a rule within the TTPS, which barred a potential recruit because of his tattoos.
Seepersad declared that the TTPS tattoo policy is unconstitutional, discriminatory and ill-advised.
Dillon Ramraj was unsuccessful back in 2019, when he applied to be recruited as a member of the TTPS.
Ramraj was disqualified because he had a tattoo on his left hand in or around the area between his thumb and his index finger. The tattoo depicted a small green shuriken, more commonly referred to as a ninja star. This symbol is synonymous with Ninjas.
Ramraj subsequently challenged the TTPS decision in court.
After Ramraj was denied entry into the TTPS in 2019, he reapplied on May 24, 2022, but was again denied the opportunity to be recruited based on the same tattoo.
In his judgment yesterday, Justice Seepersad ruled that the facts of the case demonstrate with certainty that the tattoo policy, in its current manifestation, “is discriminatory and ill-advised”.
He said, “There is an evident dichotomy and inequality of treatment with respect to potential recruits and serving officers in relation to visible tattoos and there is no apparent justification for a blanket prohibition against visible tattoos.”
The judge said the TTPS “did not reference or establish no logical basis upon which the tattoo policy is premised and no evidence has been adduced or explanation proffered to establish any justiciable rationale for the existence of the same”.
He added, “There must be a rational and reasonable connection between the tattoo policy and the restriction imposed upon the rights of the individual, but based upon the information placed before this court, it is difficult to comprehend why the visibility of a tattoo serves to disqualify a citizen who wishes to protect and serve.
“On the evidence presented, it is pellucid that the claimant’s right to freedom of expression has been breached and, without lawful justification, he was excluded from recruitment into the TTPS simply because he had a visible innocuous tattoo which he elected not to mask or camouflage,” Seepersad added.
He ruled: “Its existence and implementation is unreasonable and cannot be justified in a modern democratic state.”