OGDEN — Tattoos are no longer taboo in Ogden City’s fire and police departments.
As the city continues to investigate ways to stem the tide of an ongoing recruitment and retention problem within the two departments, officials are looking to add perks wherever they can. During a Tuesday City Council work session, Ogden Fire Chief Mike Mathieu discussed a recent policy change he says fits with that objective.
Mathieu said employees of the Fire Department (and Police Department) are no longer required to cover their tattoos while on duty.
“If you’re my age, it was unusual to have a tattoo unless you were in the military,” Mathieu said. “Now, if you’re around 20 years old, it’s unusual if you don’t have a tattoo. This (policy change) is just changing with the times.”
According to the Ogden City Police Policy Manual, the old tattoo rule required that “tattoos ... not be visible at any time with the OPD uniform or at any time while representing the (department) at training, court or in any on-duty status, regardless of location, job or assignment.” Exceptions were made for officers who had to perform an on-duty physical fitness test. The Fire Department had a similar policy.
Mathieu said his department determined the regulation was outdated, and likely one that made employees less than happy. He said the Fire Department first changed its policy and the Police Department followed suit soon after.
Retention and recruitment of Ogden firefighters and police officers has been an issue in the city for several years. Police officers and firefighters in Ogden received a 4% raise this year — a requisite action that comes as part of a previously adopted step pay program — but representatives from each department have told the Ogden City Council that noncompetitive pay is still depleting their ranks, particularly among long-time employees with valuable work experience.
The Fire Department recently changed its firefighter work schedule from 24-hour shifts to 48-hour shifts. According to City Council documents, the department had used 24-hour shifts for more than 30 years, but the city determined a change was necessary to provide a nonmonetary incentive for the department staff.
Under the new model, firefighters are working two days and then having four consecutive days off. The old 24-hour model used by the city included alternating days on and off for a week, having three to four consecutive days off, with the schedule then repeating.
The Fire Department’s new schedule was modeled after request made by the firefighters’ union and is an attempt to add another benefit to the high-stress job.