As every police officer knows, the “thin blue line” is a term that suggests that they stand between an ordered society and potential chaos.
Klev readily advised the officer that she consider having the artist put a thin blue line through the inked image. He pointed out that it’s very common for officers to include the law enforcement symbol in their tattoos.
Like we’re saying here, Klev walks the walk. He rolled up his sleeve to show a blue line going through the Star of David on his right arm.
He smiled and explained that a popular tattoo recently has been a large skull with stars and stripes – one of which is a nice blue line. Five law enforcement officers have requested the design in recent days on either their calf, shoulder or forearm.
Another popular image is St. Michael the Archangel, the patron saint of police officers and soldiers. A thin blue line through the image is ever present, he said.
Now we note two other fascinating parts of Klev’s ongoing story: For one thing, he gives a portion of the profits from each tattoo to the 100 Club of Greater Houston. (Let’s please note that a tattoo costs from $100 up into more than $1,000 or more).
“We’ve had a great relationship with B. K. and Prison Break Tattoos for more than a year now,” 100 Club Executive Director Rick Hartley said. “He’s one of the great supporters of the 100 Club. He’s a working Houston police officer.
“He’s made several donations that are significant and much appreciated.”
Klev said, “I wanted a way to be able to give back not only to the people I work with, but the other officers, the firefighters and everybody in town. I donate back to the 100 Club. What better charity?”
Like many men and women in blue from across the nation, Klev is very concerned about the months of negative police publicity, generally being generated out of the Michael Brown shooting incident in Ferguson, Missouri, near St. Louis. Some minority leaders have sought to use this incident and others similar to it to assert that many police shootings are racially motivated in some way.
Klev sought to accentuate the positive of police officers who risk their lives doing the job, risking their lives for citizens on many “typical” days of doing their duty. Again, he walked the talk. He created bracelets that, yes, have a thin blue line around them and contain the message: Police Lives Matter.
At no charge, Klev wants every individual who believes this message and heartily supports police and every brave law enforcement officer in America to have one of these special bands to wear around their wrist.
In the month his crusade has been in effect, Klev has distributed 20,000 bands to 26 states and four countries.
“To me and my business, it’s real simple to me,” Klev said. “Every life matters. But today at this time it’s about the support of our first responders.”
The Prison Break Tattoos website and Klev’s Facebook page contain an endless stream of “likes” concerning the blue line bands.
Several are especially moving. The first one reads:
I’m a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police posted in Kananaskis, Alberta. I came across your Prison Break page by luck and gave it an immediate like.
Policing in the USA (and the rest of the world) is in its darkest hour, and it’s folks like you and your business showing overt support that makes it possible to keep doing this job with a smile.
Thank you! I would like to get some of those wrist bands to hand out to the RCMP members in the area here to show our support for our brothers and sisters to the south.
Can you give me some idea of how much $ per band and I will send down and order and money (America money of course) and money for shipping too.
Also on his Facebook pages is a picture of three women who are members of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department Wives Association. Klev issued a heartfelt Thank You to these women, who were guest speakers at the Oklahoma State Fraternal Order of Police meeting. Each wore a PoliceLivesMatter wrist band and passed out more at the meeting.
While discussing the designs of tattoos and the cost, Klev said he counsels with each potential client, especially if they are officers. He’s been in enough divisions in the department to know the rules about tattoos. When a male or female officer is thinking about getting inked on the forearm, he reminds them that they will be wearing long sleeves, even in the summer.
Starting on duty in 1993, Klev began in Southwest Patrol – near his old neighborhood in Westbury – and became a budget officer there. Over the years he’s served in Personnel, the Command Center, Vice, the Dispatch Center at Beechnut and, currently, the Special Victims Unit, where as a sergeant he investigates the DNA results from the backlog of rape kits.
But wherever B. K. Klev is – on duty or off – he’s an active part of the thin blue line.
One HPD sergeant – B. K. Klevens out of Academy Class No. 155 (1993) and the Special Victims Unit – talks the talk and walks the walk along that thin blue line that’s present through not just his tattoos but his life’s calling as well.
Klevens, who prefers to be known as “B. K. Klev” on Facebook and other popular places, is anything but low key as he details the stories of his policing career and his unique “second job.”
A Thin Blue Pioneer
HPD history has no previous records showing that any Houston police officer ever operated a tattoo studio during off-duty hours. Klev relishes giving us the complete report as he relaxes at his Prison Break Tattoos in the 5300 block of Washington Avenue. He’s operated the business since October 2013.
It’s evident that he truly loves being a pioneer.
The Los Angeles native actually grew up in Houston and graduated from the High School for Performing and Visual Arts. He had acting ambitions as well as an overall “passion for the arts.”
But while attending Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos he decided he wanted to major in Criminal Justice and seek a career in law enforcement.
Along his college education route, Klev started getting tattoos. This practice continued during a brief career with the Hays County Sheriff’s Department and the early years as an HPD officer following his academy graduation.
Amid the comfortable atmosphere of his studio on Washington, Klev told his story:
“Over the years, since I was involved in the arts before I started my law enforcement career, I never lost that passion. I would frequent the theater, art museums and tattoo parlors across the nation while on vacation.
“When I started getting a few tattoos back in college and evolved into more tattoos in the department – especially in the Vice Division – I never felt comfortable as a law enforcement officer sitting in a tattoo studio. I was off-duty and wondering to myself who might come in the door? Who is this guy tattooing me? Or who is this guy next to me getting a tattoo?”
He knew from experience that getting a tattoo has become more acceptable – more in the mainstream – than it was in earlier days. Nowadays, doctors, lawyers, professional athletes and first responders are “getting inked.”
“I thought to myself one day when I was getting a tattoo: What if I opened up a place that catered not only to the general public but first responders? If I’m feeling uncomfortable, then there’s got to be some people like me who feel the same way.”
Opening such a business would both satisfy the need to maintain a comfortable, orderly society and satisfy Klev’s lifelong passion for the arts. “I wanted to provide some sort of environment conductive to making me feel comfortable that, as an officer, someone coming in could close their eyes while getting a tattoo and doesn’t have to keep his gun in his lap at the same time.”
Prison Break Tattoos is the only “themed” tattoo studio in the greater Houston area. And that is but one distinction as Klev’s story continues. As opposed to Houston’s other 200 tattoo studios, entering Klev’s operation is, well, like entering a prison. But there’s “fun” involved in an atmosphere that is light-hearted, not dark and dank.
One must get through the barred doors and past the bunk beds and “mock” prisoners to discuss the services available in a user-friendly, family-oriented atmosphere. Where else, the owner asks, can a mother or father bring in the kids when they want to get a tattoo?
There’s even an “electric chair” that really gives you a buzz!
If I wasn’t different,” the sergeant explained, “I’d just be another tattoo shop in Houston. People walk in the door and they’re in awe. It’s a talking point. It’s something that the people will talk about when they leave.
Law Enforcement Symbols
“We have amazing artists here. You ‘experience’ Prison Break Tattoos. It’s an attraction, a show. I wanted to open a place that people would feel they are comfortable, safe and where they experience impeccable customer service which they won’t find anywhere else.”
Not surprisingly, the shop caters to first responders. Klev said a large percentage of his customers are police officers, sheriff’s deputies, federal agents and firefighters. As he spoke, a female Houston police officer entered the premises wanting another tattoo. She was considering one that would say: Woman of Valor.