Station Tattoos and the LASD – The Ultimate Red Herring

“Red Herring:” a clue or piece of information that is, or is intended to be, misleading  –  Oxford Languages

I think most everyone would agree that it’s been a rather tumultuous year and a half for our current sheriff and his administration.  While there are a myriad of issues we could address, for this article I have decided to focus on the humongous red herring that the sheriff has been chasing for his entire term. This particular herring appears to be taking up almost all of this administration’s energy.  Sadly, but not surprisingly, no matter how diligent they have been in this quest, they have utterly failed to reel in this monstrous beast.  I guess that’s the nature of the red herring in the first place … it doesn’t really exist.

The particular herring I’m referring to is the laughable fascination with the existence of station tattoos.  Tattoos have been around for over 3500 years.  I would venture to guess that tattoos have been a fixture within the LASD for most, if not all, the Department’s history.  While the mainstream media has been driving the narrative regarding tattoos, it makes absolutely no sense for the leader of the largest sheriff’s department in the country to exert so much energy in blindly kowtowing to the media’s leftist, anti-cop agenda.

I have long considered tattoos to be personal expressions of speech, as guaranteed by the First Amendment.  It is NOT a tattoo that makes someone a criminal or evildoer.  It is one’s own ACTIONS that make someone a criminal or evildoer.  Period.  End of story.  Be that as it may, we have heard disturbing stories about how this sheriff has assigned investigators to fan out to patrol stations to interrogate deputies about the presence of tattoos on their bodies; tattoos that are not displayed or visible.  The department long ago mandated that personnel sporting tattoos must cover them up during their tour of duty.  This has not been an issue and has not caused concern within the department.

If true, the department’s actions in this regard are unprecedented and reprehensible.  To have investigators seeking out possible tattoo wearers defies logic.  Let’s say a deputy at a particular station is found to have a station tattoo on a covered part of their anatomy.  So what?  Has the particular deputy been involved in censurable conduct?  Are they involved in illegal activity or actions that violate department policy?  Is the tattoo reflective of another assignment the deputy has worked in the past?  Maybe even for a station that no longer exists?  If so, where is the need for this incredible focus?  If this turns out to be true, I predict that the department will find itself the defendant in an expensive class action lawsuit.

To further illustrate my point, let’s look at a few other, and much more significant issues facing the department.  During his term, the sheriff and the department have faced:

A record number of suicides (leads the nation), yet the sheriff is focused on tattoos.

A record number of retirements, yet the sheriff is focused on tattoos.

A record number of resignations, yet the sheriff is focused on tattoos.

Record low morale, yet the sheriff is focused on tattoos.

Record vacancy factors at stations (upward of 40% at some stations), yet the sheriff is focused on tattoos.

The impending taking over of the LASD by the State DOJ, yet the sheriff is focused on tattoos.

Crumbling infrastructure, yet the sheriff is focused on tattoos.

Crippling budget shortfall, yet the sheriff is focused on tattoos.

Aging radio car and bus fleet (12 or fewer of 82 bus fleet in operation), yet the sheriff is focused on tattoos.

Due to the critical shortage of buses, the department is not able to get inmates to court on time, which pisses off the judges, thereby threatening the contract with the courts, but the sheriff is focused on tattoos.

Upgrades to station desk areas, including much needed bullet proof glass, is not being installed due to lack of funding, yet the sheriff is laser focused on tattoos.

All of the above points to the fact that the sheriff’s department is in continuing crisis, due in large part to ineffectual, incompetent leadership.  This madness needs to stop. The sheriff needs to put on his big boy pants and stand up to the naysayers, including, but not limited to the Board of Supervisors and left-leaning media.  Through their actions, neither entity appears to have the best interests of the department or those living in LA County on their agenda.

All of the noise regarding deputy tattoos and “deputy gangs” needs to be tossed onto the garbage heap.  If someone violates department policy or breaks the law, they need to be dealt with.  Whether or not someone has a tattoo on their body is inconsequential.  Again, it’s the ACT, not the tattoo.  Let’s jettison this crap and move the department forward.  It seems a simple enough task, but I fear this sheriff is not up to the job.  He fiddles with the minutia instead of tackling the real problems facing the department.  Who wins in that scenario?  Not the department, and not the people of LA County.



Mike Bornman

Michael Bornman, Captain (ret) LA County Sheriff’s Department, 36 years of service. Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership, Bachelor’s Degree in English, Associate’s Degree in Police Science.

1 Comment

  1. Another excellent article. The issues facing LASD are CRUSHING and substantially interfering with the Department’s main mission — PUBLIC SAFETY. The current sheriff is a left-leaning politician, not a law enforcement official. His obsession with tattoos is just an excuse to avoid the complicated problems facing LASD and law enforcement in general.

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