Batman, angel wings and Japanese symbols are certainly not part of the traditional police uniform - but these and many other depictions are adorning the skin of many of our cops.

The majority of police recruits - up to 95 per cent, the Herald understands - have tattoos these days and the organisation has launched a recruitment campaign around skin art in a bid to encourage more people to join the force.

The campaign officially launches this weekend and shares the personal stories of seven officers and their ink.

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"The Ink beneath the Blue invites the public into the lives of some of our officers who choose to literally wear their hearts on their sleeves," executive media and communications deputy chief Jane Archibald says.

"It's the stories and very personal experiences behind why they got their unique tattoo combined with the training provided by police, which equip these officers to police more effectively and empathetically in our diverse communities."

Constable Tephui Rudolph. Photo / supplied NZ Police
Constable Tephui Rudolph. Photo / supplied NZ Police

Police allow tattoos, but some need to be assessed to ensure they are appropriate.

"It's important that people see the police as approachable, so if you take on a police role it means you'll be dealing with the public and you should think about the impact a visible tattoo might have," the New Cops website states.

"Apart from tā moko or equivalent, you shouldn't have tattoos in prominent places such as the hands or face. If you do, these will need to be assessed.

"Tattoos which are offensive, rude, or incite hatred are totally against our values and are an absolute no. No exceptions."

All police were invited to participate in the new campaign and Archibald said the number of people who put their hands up was overwhelming. But only seven were chosen.

This recruiting campaign targets 18 to 30-year-olds from the Upper North Island area to join the police.

"While the great majority of our recruits already have a tattoo, it is still one of the most commonly asked questions of the recruitment team," Archibald explained.

"In life, sometimes complex ideas and messages can be conveyed through a single picture or image.


"You will have heard of the old adage - a picture is worth a thousand words; this may or may not be the case with personal tattoos – some are meaningful but only to their wearer."

Constable Dion Nelson-Screen showing off his ink. Photo / supplied
Constable Dion Nelson-Screen showing off his ink. Photo / supplied

One of the officers fronting the campaign is Constable Dion Nelson-Screen, who has a detailed portrait of Batman adorning his right forearm.

"I got this as firstly I am a massive fan but it also symbolises the police in a way to me," he said.

"I like how Batman stands for justice and how the bat symbol is a symbol of hope and justice - just like the police symbol.

"Batman is just a regular human who wants to stand for more and save people."

Nelson-Screen has a number of other inkings including the Japanese symbol for strength and the Green Arrow character from the television series, which he says has similar meaning to him as Batman.

"Plus, I love comic book characters," he added.

"I also have my mum and brother's name on my shoulder along with a Kiwi fern which is half a fern and half a Māori tā moko - which symbolises both parts of my ethnic background."

Māori responsiveness adviser Sergeant Juanita (Whiti) Timutimu said she was the only serving police officer with a moko kauae - tattoo only given to wāhine.

Nichola Ellis. Photo / supplied NZ Police
Nichola Ellis. Photo / supplied NZ Police

"Two of my kuia had kauae and it was a great privilege to receive it," she said.

"In our role as Māori police officers, we bring everything to our mahi.

"It's not just about our reo [language[, it's about everything that encompasses being Māori — including moko.

"I hope that our young ones with moko kauae, who want to come into the police force can feel that they can."

Timutimu said police "are people too" and often made connections with the public through their tattoos, "not in spite of them".

Constable Tepuhi Rudolph has memories of his family - a sister died of cancer - represented with angel wings on his body.

"I moved away from my parents at a young age and the tattoo in relation to that talks of courage, independence and strength," he explained.

"I have a new one in progress which brings both my mum and my dad's side together.

"It also tells the story of the beginning of a new career as a police officer and the hurdles I had to finally graduate."

Dunedin diversity officer Constable Leanne Benjamin has a rainbow bird which she explained showcases strength.

"I have a number of tattoos with various meanings and through age and experiences I have a number of stories to tell," she said.

"This bird represents my freedom to express myself and be my true self, at work and home; the colours represent our rainbow communities."

Constable Amber Dempsey. Photo / supplied NZ Police
Constable Amber Dempsey. Photo / supplied NZ Police

Archibald said police officers had to communicate every day to do their job to the best of their ability.

"And sometimes it's easier to convey empathy if you are more like the people that you meet each day," she said.

"This campaign was unscripted and our staff are brave to come forward and be open and honest about their skin art which often has very personal meaning.

"Some tattoos have a more simple meaning to the bearer, their passion or love for something, such as a character or object and that too can bring police and public together."

If you are interested in joining police - with or without tattoos - or have questions about any of the recruitment process, contact to find out more.