The following is a re-post of an article by Julie Tappendorf from The Municipal Minute, an Ancel Glink local government blog that she edits...
In 2015, the Chicago Police Department issued an order requiring all police officers on duty or otherwise "representing" the police department to cover all tattoos, either with clothing or cover-up tape. The department's stated rationale was to "promote uniformity and professionalism."
Shortly after the order was issued, three officers sued the City, claiming that the department's order violated their right to free speech. The district court dismissed the lawsuit, and the officers appealed to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. While that appeal was pending, the City was also subject to a union grievance challenging the same department order. That grievance went to arbitration, and the arbitrator ruled that the order violated the collective bargaining agreement. As a result of the arbitrator's ruling, the City revoked the order.
The 7th Circuit issued its ruling yesterday, on the officers' appeal of its First Amendment challenge to the department order. The 7th Circuit did not rule on the substance of the appeal since the City had already revoked the challenged order. Instead, the Court remanded the case back to the district court with instructions to vacate its ruling in favor of the City. Medici v. City of Chicago (7th Cir., May 10, 2017).
Although the Court did not expressly rule on whether the tattoo ban violated the First Amendment, language in the decision about the broad scope of the ban, the officers' rights of free expression, as well as the instructions to the district court to vacate its ruling in favor of the City, suggest that the 7th Circuit may have ruled against the City had it reached the merits of this case.