A newspaper photograph of Durban’s trendy Instagram cop has put the SA Police Services (SAPS) under the spotlight.

The trendy photo showed that

Constable Sanele Sophazi, 30, is seen posing for the camera, mimicking holding a gun in her hands, with a tattoo on her right forearm clearly visible.

The debate centred around the fairness of the SAPS when it hired new recruits.

National police spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo said a policy of not hiring police officers with visible tattoos came into effect a few years ago. “Some officers had tattoos long before that process started and this meant that they were excluded (from the ruling). It is not retrospective.”

However, officers were not allowed to get tattoos after being accepted into the force.

“When you apply, the requirements state that you must not have a tattoo that can be visible when wearing the full uniform,” he said. “If it is on your chest or back, then you are fulfilling the requirements.”

Speaking about Sophazi, he said any action would depend on when she got the tattoo and how long she had been on the force.

Provincial police spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbele said an internal investigation was being conducted into Sophazi, who is stationed at the Pinetown Police Station.

“The SAPS policy clearly states that the police officer must never have a visible tattoo while in uniform,” Mbele said.

Similar rules apply for metro police. Senior metro police superintendent Parboo Sewpersad said they would not employ an officer with a tattoo on their arm or neck.

“An officer can have a tattoo as long as it’s concealed and we cannot see it,” Sewpersad said.

An officer already in service who then got a visible tattoo would be asked to remove it because they would have been told the rules upon being hired.