Can police have religious tattoos, asks former police volunteer

Khen-Han-Ming-tattoPETALING JAYA: A former Police Volunteer Reserve Corp (PVR) member has asked whether Buddhist police officers with religious tattoos will also face stern action.

This comes after Ipoh police deputy chief Supt Abdul Rani Alias was quoted by Oriental Daily as reminding police officers that Bukit Aman had issued a notice on June 21 that police officers are not allowed to have tattoos.

According to JK Associates principal consultant Khen Han Ming, who served as a PVR member from 2014 to 2016, the rule came as a surprise to him.

“A lot of officers have tattoos,” he told FMT.

“I had tattoos before I joined, and the selection process for the PVR is identical to the regular selection process.”

Khen, who was also once a Buddhist monk, said the rule posed a problem for those who had inked their bodies, either for tribal or religious purposes.

“For some Buddhist traditions, we get tattoos during certain initiation rituals. I had my tattoos before I joined and it wasn’t a problem. I got mine from my religious teachers.”

He said for some Buddhists, a spiritual tattoo identifies the student’s lineage with their teachers.

“I know some Chinese religious traditions such as Taoism which also use tattoos and this is perfectly okay. The officers with them are still in service.”

Khen urged police to clearly and quickly explain whether any exceptions would be made for those who had tattoos for religious reasons.

“Supt Rani’s statement is a little too general and could create speculation and encourage discrimination,” he said, adding that some of the comments made by the public on Rani’s statement could be hurtful for some Buddhists.

“As far as I know, the police – just like any uniformed service – allow tattoos as long as they are not visible on bare skin and is covered while in uniform.

“Also, these tattoos must not identify gang or criminal organisation affiliations.”