Tattoos and military

(To Antonino Lombardi)

A recent sentence by the Lazio TAR (n.10840 of 1 August 2022, IV Section) accepted the appeal of a competitor deemed unsuitable, in a competition announced by the financial police, because he had two tattoos in the supralleolar area and therefore covered from uniform.

The judges evaluated the interpretation of the announcement made by the commission for psycho-physical assessments, contrary to the limits of the reference rules on the automatic exclusion of the aspirant who has tattoos in the supralleolar area. In this body area, the presence of tattoos, even if indicated in the announcement as a reason for exclusion, is - for male candidates - a part always covered by the uniform. The Lazio TAR expressed its opinion noting that “Such an interpretation is, indeed, in contrast with the clear dictation of the primary legislation, which limits itself to imposing a decent appearance of the military - such as to allow the correct use of the items of equipment provided. Consequently, the last part of the aforementioned provision of the notice must be interpreted as merely an example of the criteria established by the law without it being considered introductory - in defiance of the principle of favor participationis - of new restrictive criteria not provided for by the same, suitable for excluding subjects with tattoos or other permanent voluntary alterations of the physical appearance, located in areas of the body not visible while wearing the uniforms of the order ".

The sentence also states that the part of the notice in which it is stated that i "tattoos or other permanent voluntary alterations of the physical appearance, not consequent to interventions of a health nature, however, their presence is a cause for exclusion from the competition if they are detrimental to the decorum of the uniform or the dignity of the condition of the member of the Body of the financial police referred to in article 721 of the decree of the President of the Republic March 15, 2010, n. 90. In particular, competitors with such permanent tattoos / alterations will be excluded:…. ", it must be interpreted as merely an example of the criteria established by law and not, instead, introductory "Of new restrictive criteria" not provided for by the legislator e "suitable to exclude subjects with tattoos or other voluntary permanent alterations of physical appearance, sites in areas of the body not visible by wearing the uniforms of the ordinance".

The administrative judges referred to a previous sentence (nr. 02063/2022 - TAR of Lazio) which saw as the applicant an aspiring student of the prison police who, had been excluded from the examining commission, due to his tattoo deemed unsuitable. The medical commission, in fact, had issued the judgment of non-suitability as the tattoo was considered as "Index of abnormal personality". The judges, however, found the complaints applied to the candidate unfounded, stating that a visible tattoo does not automatically lead to exclusion from a public competition. The court therefore confirmed "The obligation for the Administration to favor maximum access, without introducing limiting discrimination that is not reflected in specific causes of exclusion expressly provided for, which in any case do not appear to comply with a serious justification ratio, which is why the causes of exclusion from a competition to public employment posts must be strictly interpreted ".

The issue of tattoos in the armed forces and in the police forces has always been a reason for divisions and disparate opinions both regarding candidates in the competition and in the case of staff on permanent service.

In the past, in the competition for access to the armed and police forces, the presence of tattoos on the skin had sometimes been considered unfavorably and could be qualified, during a medical examination, as a permanent alteration of the epidermis of a potentially pathological nature with any harmful consequences (Council of State IV, 24 January 2011, no. 504, confirmation of the Lazio Regional Administrative Court, I, no. 32768 of 2010); subsequently the jurisprudence excluded any pathological relevance of the alteration of the skin by tattooing.

Nowadays, tattooing among young people has become almost a normality and probably soon it will be almost impossible to recruit young people without some permanent paint on the skin.

What about the tattooed uniformed men who are already on permanent duty? It would perhaps be impossible to prevent or suppress a well-established custom ...

Photo: US Navy