The minister for the Interior, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, stepped in this week to end a controversy over tattoos within the Guardia Civil that threatened to cause chaos in the normally well-regimented force.
The minister ordered bosses to withdraw their plans to force all officers who have a tattoo visible when on duty, even when in short-sleeves in the summer, to have them surgically removed. The draft of the rules said they would have to be erased within three months.
There was outrage from the police service's unions when the toughened plans were announced. The anger was worsened as Grande-Malaska, the minister with overall responsibility for the Guardia Civil in the government, has a wrist tattoo himself, which he has been seen displaying on public occasions.
The minister's tattoo is a form of lucky charm bracelet on his right wrist and he would not have been allowed to join the Guardia Civil with it under the proposed rules, unions were quick to point out.
The new rules on tattoos, which the minister has decided to veto, also said that non-visible ones that expressed sentiments or ideas contrary to the values of the force were banned. It was the officers' own superiors who were to decide what was right and wrong.
Other designs of tattoo were to be allowed but couldn't be on display. If an officer didn't comply, the scrapped plan said they had to make a formal declaration and risk a fine.
For smaller, permitted tattoos, the force would have allowed them to be covered with skin-coloured bands or covers, or with something similar to a uniform's colour.
Besides tattoos, the new regulations hoped to control many other aspects; no piercings, nor rings nor expansions. Make up was of course forbidden as well. And no creative hairstyles, on men or women.
The document read, "[Hair] colour should be natural and if hair is dyed, this should match with natural colouring." Haircuts needed to be even and no stepped or graded trims. And no dreadlocks or similar were to be permitted.
The new set of rules has now been sent back to the drawing board following the Interior minister stepping in.