In a sponsored Facebook ad, the Little Elm Police Department lists several qualities it encourages in potential candidates for the 14 posted officer positions it is trying to fill.
Numbers one and two on the list: tattoos and a beard. Number three? "A passion for law enforcement and community policing."
As for the first two, it is part of an effort within the department — as well as several others in North Texas and beyond — to relax what had been rigid, clean-cut appearance standards for decades.
The primary motivation for the change, which went into effect in 2015, is to open the potential pool of police officer candidates to as wide a field as possible, according to the man responsible for it.
"It is just normal life. You look anywhere, people have beards and tattoos," said Little Elm Police Chief Rodney Harrison, who has neither. "You go to board rooms, [you see] beards and tattoos. You can go to any college, [you see] beards and tattoos. So, I think other than just breaking the stereotypical idea of it is taboo to have a beard and tattoos and be a police officer, we have proven that theory wrong."
Harrison noted that many of the most qualified candidates to become a police officer are veterans coming out of the military.
"A lot of the veterans coming back from overseas, what do they have? They have tattoos and they have beards. So, we looked at our uniform policy and we took a little leap of faith," Harrison said.
There are some limitations with respect to the department policy — beards are to be kept neat, and Little Elm officers are not allowed to display visible tattoos on their hands, neck or face.
Cities across the region have varying policies with respect to bearded and tattooed police officers.
The Irving Police Department, like Little Elm, allows its officers to have both beards and tattoos.
The Dallas Police Department changed its policy in 2018 to allow beards on officers, but they are not allowed to have visible tattoos.
The Frisco Police Department has the opposite policy – cops there can have visible tattoos, but they are not allowed to grow beards.
And cities like Arlington and Plano are among the many that still prohibit police officers from having either a beard or visible tattoos.