New OCPD Policies Address Relationships, Tattoos; Internal Dating Must Be Disclosed

OCEAN CITY – Ocean City Police Department’s General Orders received several updates this week involving interdepartmental relationships, plain clothing operations and the covering of officer’s tattoos.

Ocean City Police Chief Ross Buzzuro proposed two new policies to address operational and administrative needs within the Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) to the Mayor and City Council for approval, followed by two other updates.

A new policy, General Order (G.O.) 200 P-1 Personal Relationships, states, “the department  believes that it is in the employees’ and the department’s best interest to keep business and professional relationships separate from personal relationships.”

The purpose of this policy is to provide guidance concerning the types of relationships that are improper, to ensure the integrity and effectiveness of the department’s chain of command and to prevent impropriety and conflicts of interest that arise out of employee relationships, according to the order’s language.

“This General Order is modeled after the FBI regarding employee relationships,” Buzzuro said. “It basically protects the agency from favoritism. It prohibits employee-supervisor relationships. Relationships in general are being spelled out in writing and in actuality it is showing the department is looking out for its employees.”

In line with the newly proposed G.O. 200 P-1, Buzzuro presented an update to G.O. 200 B-1 General Conduct & Compliance with Rules/Regulations. It adds the language to the line item, Relationship Disclosures, “those employees who become involved in intimate relationships with fellow employees must disclose said relationship in writing to the Office of Professional Standards. As well as under, Supervisor Responsibilities, it will state, supervisors shall not date or engage in intimate relationships with subordinate employees.”

Another new policy on the table was G.O. 400 P-1 Plain Clothes Operations Guidelines that states, “the department recognizes that the use of plain-clothes employees is beneficial to the investigation of specific crimes and certain public safety concerns. Plain-clothes operations help employees to avoid detection and identification as law enforcement officials however these operations also create additional risk to the involved employees. The purpose of this policy is to establish basic protocols and guidelines for the use of Department employees in plain-clothes investigations and operations.”

“For the formation of special operations, we saw a need for the General Order,” Buzzuro said. “The informal practices regarding our plain clothes operations will now move towards policy. It spells out training and safety of officers when they are in plain clothes operations.”

The final update on the table was to G.O. 800 A-1 General Appearance Standards regarding officers tattoos required to be covered, for example by a bandage, changing to having to be covered by clothing.

“Up until this amendment, we have prohibited tattoos being exposed. The exception was officers to wear a covering but now we would like to move to officers covering their tattoos with attire, whether it is a uniform or court attire,” Buzzuro said. “In the current General Order the applicants that have visible tattoos would be disqualified from employment. This would give them the opportunity to gain employment with the police department if the General Order would be amended.”

Buzzuro added currently there are seven OCPD officers who are grandfathered into the policy and are exempt from having to cover their tattoos.

The G.O. will now read, “tattoos on the hands, neck, face, scalp, or head are prohibited. Offensive tattoos are prohibited anywhere on the body. Example of offensive tattoos include, but are not limited to those that; are gang related, or are representative of criminal organizations in any manner, depict nudity or are sexually suggestive or explicit, include profane or vulgar words or phrases, advocate racial, ethnic, religious or sexual hatred or discrimination of any protected class, or in any way undermine the Town’s or Department’s values and mission.”

The order continues, “As well as, employees who are on-duty, are wearing any uniform of the department or are representing the department in any official capacity shall conceal all permitted tattoos with; authorized uniform items, or civilian clothing when the employee is not wearing a uniform.”

The council voted unanimously to approve all General Orders followed by the approval of Mayor Rick Meehan.