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What a way to honor our Marines. An outstanding Sheriff Deputy was fired for having a tattoo on the inside of his forearm of praying hands and dog tags. He and his platoon lost one of their own while serving in Iraq and the entire platoon got the same tattoo in memory of the soldier. I would say the Sheriff needs to revise his tattoo policy. They hired him knowing he had the tattoo and fired him without due process after he served his probation period.

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Parkersburg News article link

Wood County deputy fired over tattoo
Natalee Seely
POSTED: April 29, 2010

PARKERSBURG – A former Wood County deputy is fighting for his job after being fired in April over a tattoo on his forearm.

Christopher Piggott, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and former Parkersburg firefighter, said the circumstances of his termination were unfair and his right to due process was violated.

“I’m not ready to give up my career in law enforcement. Being a deputy is something I’ve pursued all my life,” said 29-year-old Piggott. “This whole situation has dumbfounded a lot of people.”

Piggott received a letter of termination April 15, a little over a year after being hired by the Wood County Sheriff’s Office and 11 days after the conclusion of his year-long probationary period, he said.

The termination was over Piggott’s refusal to remove a tattoo on his right forearm depicting two praying hands cupping a Marine Corps ID tag, an image memorializing his five years of service in the armed forces and his two tours of service in Iraq.

Above the hands is the phrase “Unless you were there,” etched in ink.


In 2008, the sheriff’s office implemented a new policy restricting visible tattoos. The policy states, “Tattoos are not to be visible while wearing the summer uniform.”

During his time as a deputy sheriff, Piggott said he covered the tattoo while on duty by wrapping a fitted black band around his forearm or wearing a long-sleeved uniform.

When asked to have the tattoo removed, Piggott refused. A few days later he was terminated, found to be in violation of the rules of conduct and personal appearance, he said.

“I was terminated rather quickly, and no due process was given,” said Piggott. “I feel it was dealt with in an unprofessional way.”

Piggott declined to confirm whether he signed any documentation when hired about agreeing to have his tattoo removed within a certain time frame.

Officials with the Wood County Deputy Sheriff’s Association said the heart of the issue is the violation of the former deputy’s right to a board review before his termination.

Lt. Shawn Graham, president of the Wood County Deputy Sheriff’s Association, said once a deputy’s probationary period has ended, he should be given the right to due process. Citing West Virginia Code 7-14-C, Graham said punitive issues should be presented to a review board before action is taken.

“We feel he was fired without proper procedure. The deputy sheriff’s association held a meeting on his behalf and voted to support Chris and try to get his job back,” said Graham. “I think we are doing what is in the best interest of the citizens. To lose one of our best officers over something like this is wrong.”

The Wood County Deputy Sheriff’s Association notified Wood County Sheriff Jeff Sandy about its decision to support Piggott. Graham said the association is lobbying for his reinstatement.

“I know many of our deputies have tattoos, and I think they are more socially acceptable now. I can’t think of anyone who would be offended by a tattoo,” said Graham. “The bottom line is, Chris is a fine young man and an asset to the sheriff’s office. His heart is in law enforcement.”

Piggott and his attorney George Cosenza have sent a letter to Sandy requesting reinstatement. A pre-disciplinary hearing was scheduled for May 19, but was postponed because several witnesses were unavailable, said Cosenza.

“I think there are legitimate issues that need to be resolved, and we are just in the beginning stages. Now that the sheriff has decided on punitive action, Piggott is entitled to a pre-disciplinary hearing,” said Cosenza. “There are issues regarding how he was notified of his termination and what exactly his status is now.”

Cosenza said Piggott was sent a letter of termination that advised him of his rights, and he is exercising his right to a pre-disciplinary hearing.

“If the review board believes punitive action should not be taken, the sheriff has a right to appeal to the civil service commission, and the same goes for Piggott. Depending on the outcome, the matter could end up in circuit court,” he said. “I do not believe a deputy sheriff can be fired without a pre-disciplinary hearing, and we have not yet had that hearing.”

Sandy said he could not comment on personnel issues under the advisement of Wood County Prosecutor Jason Wharton.

While Piggott awaits a decision, he has been working various construction jobs.

“I’m just trying to get reinstated. I’m a little nervous about the outcome,” Piggott said. “One of the big reasons I would feel comfortable going back to the department is because I know a lot of the deputies are backing me up.”

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Not all police officers are good ones and a few bad apples sometimes spoil the barrel, BUT, if you had to put up with people verbally abusing you, spitting on you, resisting arrest, trying to fight you when you try to arrest them, then you wouldn’t complain. Police officers put their lives on the line everyday. The use of a taser is a non-lethal (98%) way to subdue some asshole that is breaking the law or is being disorderly. I saw someone post on AOL that cops shouldn’t be allowed to use a taser on women and some called an officer a coward. Women can be just as belligerent and difficult to restrain and arrest as a man, especially if intoxicated. I haven’t seen the latest video about the “soccer mom” being tased in front of her kids so I cannot comment on it. Just remember that video doesn’t always show the true story if there is no audio. You cannot hear what the person is saying, you cannot see if the person showed aggression in their facial gestures because most video is not that clear. If you cannot hear the person defying a law enforcement officers command to follow a procedure that most departments train for when dealing with a situation then that person is putting the officers safety at risk. A police officer has no idea who the person is, if they are armed, if they are high on drugs and getting out of your vehicle without being told to is asking for trouble. The officer just kicked into the next level of safety training and wondering what the hell this person is on or is hiding by exiting their vehicle and being verbally belligerent. And contrary to what a lot of people living in this society may believe is that, yes, even soccer moms can have drugs, sell drugs, be high on drugs. A large part of society doesn’t see the underbelly of society as most are sleeping during the times the dregs of society are usually out and about. Like I said before, not all officers are good, some are lazy, some are power hungry and some are just pricks that want nothing better than to ruin someones day when a warning would suffice. BUT, most are out there protecting our lives from scum who mean to harm us. They live in danger everytime they strap on the gun and put on a badge. So give them a break, show them support, especially in this day and age when they have to juggle what the courts tell them they can and can’t do while sometimes leaving them open to lawsuits. I’m stepping off of my soapbox now and have included a video link for you to watch if you’ve made it this far. Tasers help officers subdue idiots that may end up hurting themselves, someone else or the officer with no harm (majority of the time) to the person.

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